Distracted driving is the number one cause of workplace deaths in the United States. OSHA has partnered with the National Safety Council to call employers’ attention to this issue and urge the adoption of safe driving policies. Failure to adopt and enforce such policies in the workplace leads to tragic results and OSHA has made it perfectly clear that employers who do not take this issue seriously should expect OSHA citations. On its distracted driving webpage, the agency has stated that employers “have a responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal, and enforced policy against texting while driving.”
But to truly protect your employees from the hazards of distracted driving, your policy should cover more than just texting. A comprehensive policy should cover all employees, both handheld and hands-free devices, company vehicles, company cell phones and all work-related communications. All employees should be forbidden to use cell phones, hands-free devices, and any other mobile electronics while operating a vehicle when:
- the vehicle is owned, leased, or rented by the employer
- a personal motor vehicle is used in connection with company business
- the motor vehicle is on the employer’s property
- the cell phone or mobile electronic device is owned or leased by the employer
- the cell phone or mobile electronic device is used to conduct company business
Employers should strongly discourage distracted driving by incorporating written safe driving policies into employee handbooks, providing training on these policies during worker orientation, and providing annual refresher training. Safe communication practices should be put in place such as established procedures, times, and places for drivers’ safe use of cell phones and other electronic devices for communicating with supervisors, customers, and others. To the extent that the employer has any programs in place that could incentivize employees to use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, they should be eliminated.
Finally, safe driving policies must be enforced – it is not enough simply to write a policy and provide employee training. As we have all become so dependent on our cell phones and other mobile electronic devices, it is likely that some employees will resist or simply ignore these policies, but enforcement is necessary to truly improve employee safety. Accordingly, employers should reprimand employees who violate safe driving policies and those reprimands should involve serious penalties, including, where appropriate, termination. There is no way to protect employees from every hazard they may encounter on the road, but implementing a strong safe driving program will go a long way towards decreasing the likelihood of a workplace tragedy on the road.