The Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to report that transportation accidents are the leading cause of fatal on-the-job injuries in the United States.
Our Winston-Salem workers' compensation attorneys know often we think of commercial trucking accidents when we think of these types of crashes. But it's not just tractor-trailers. Postal employees, pizza delivery, and that fender-bender on your way to Staples to pick up supplies for the office are all included in what the government terms transportation accidents.
In recent years, safety advocates have encouraged employers to create safe-driving policies and take other steps to help protect employees on the road. The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued rules forbidding all bus and over-the-road truckers from using hand-held cell phones or text messaging behind the wheel. And, upon taking office, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal employees from using cell phones to make calls or send text messages while driving.
Still, far too many employees are expected to multitask -- and that often includes taking calls from the boss behind the wheel.
The National Safety Council continues to urge employers to take their responsibilities seriously -- and to enact real cell phone policies meant to keep employees safe while on the job and behind the wheel. In fact, the NSC began offering a free updated Cell Phone Policy Kit in April 2012.
Creating an employee cell phone policy:
-Non-emergency use of hand-held or hands-free devices should be banned.
-Employers should discourage any practice that encourages an employee to text or use a cell phone while driving.
-Should cover all work-related communications, even in a personal vehicle and/or while using a personal cell phone.
A recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found employees often cite work-related communications as the reason for using a cell phone while driving. OSHA reports companies that do not establish policies discouraging texting while driving are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which mandates that employers must provide a workplace free of serious recognized hazards.
This means following the law is not enough -- particularly in states that have not passed a distracted-driving law prohibiting hand-held cell phone use or text messaging by drivers. Federal workplace safety rules also apply. Perhaps even more important from an employer's perspective, is the associated liability in the event of an accident. As the government notes, an employer would have a hard time arguing it was unaware of the risks of distracted driving given the nationwide public service push aimed at getting all drivers to put down their phone and pay attention behind the wheel.
Make establishing and implementing a comprehensive cell phone policy a priority at your company in advance of the busy upcoming holiday travel season. The employee's life you save could very well be your own.