Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard

Demand real safety not an illusion

AS PROFESSIONALS, how seriously do we take our own safety?

There are plenty who are willing to talk about safety, but in the workplace safe practices and systems speak far louder than any rhetoric.

While the rest of the industrialised world has moved forward in implementing the latest safety innovations in motor vehicles, the heavy vehicle industry lags far behind.

I am puzzled as to why manufacturers or owners are willing to add $30,000 worth of polished aluminium, stainless and chrome to a new vehicle but will penny pinch to avoid adding safety systems that could ultimately save the owner or an employee's life.

I would bet if most of you were purchasing a new vehicle for the family or yourself that you would not even consider purchasing one today that is built without driver or even passenger airbag safety systems, so why do we accept the absence of SRS (supplemental restraint system) airbags in new vehicles that we spend a far greater amount of time in and are subsequently at much greater risk of being involved in a serious accident in?

Even more disturbing is that there are still manufacturers who do not offer driver SRS airbags even as an option.

Many believe that because a driver is sitting in a large box of steel or aluminium that they are well protected from the impact and effects of any serious accident and are subsequently safer than in an average motor vehicle.

Four-wheel drive owners and manufacturers used to think exactly the same thing until it was proven in accident safety tests that the occupants of a small family car with its inbuilt safety systems would fare far better in a serious accident than the occupants of a large four-wheel drive.

Impact with items like the steering wheel, dashboard, windscreen and the effects of the human body being thrown about lead to serious injuries and fatalities no matter how strong the box you are sitting in is.

Type into any internet search engine "Volvo Trucks safety roll over test" and you will find many pages that will allow you to watch the video of a FM Volvo being rolled over with two crash test dummies as the occupants.

The video includes an onboard camera which shows what happens to the dummies inside the cabin. If you have never seen it, you really should.

Not only does this video show the effects of the impact on the human body as is it thrown around the insides of a truck cabin, it also compares the effects of not wearing a seatbelt with wearing one.

SRS means that vehicle safety airbags are designed to be used as a supplement to the occupant wearing a seatbelt and are not designed to effectively absorb and protect from the full impact of an unrestrained occupant in the event of an accident.

Here lies the other problem in the industry - the belief by some that it is safer in a heavy vehicle to not wear a seatbelt than to buckle up.

I admit, early three-point safety belts that were anchored at the top to the truck cabin were annoying and in some cases dangerous when used in conjunction with suspension seats, but nearly all vehicles now are fitted with three point belts fully integrated into the seat that remove the problem of the belt locking up and distracting or limiting driver control over the vehicle.

Authorised outlets can also retrofit a new seat to older vehicles that have a three-point integrated belt, eliminating this issue.

But even with that problem sorted, drivers still cling to and use as an excuse the stories of someone they know who was in an accident and claim they are alive today because they weren't wearing a seat belt, but we will never be able to hear the stories from those who aren't alive because they weren't wearing a seatbelt.

It's a one-sided debate.

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