Texting While Driving is an Employee Safety Issue

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death on the job, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation incidents accounted for 42% of all fatal work injuries in 2012. And in our increasingly technological world, more texting leads to more crashes. With each additional 1 million text messages, fatalities from distracted driving rose more than 75%.

Recently, OSHA reminded employers that they have a responsibility to protect their workers by prohibiting texting while driving.  It is a violation of the OSH Act if an employer requires workers to text while driving, creates incentives that encourage or condone it, or structures work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out the job.  However, employers may want to go a step further to disclaim responsibility for workers texting while driving.  To minimize the possibility of being found in violation of the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, employers should ensure that their policies and procedures strictly forbid texting while driving and that discipline procedures are followed when workers engage in such behavior.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for OSHA, has been quoted as saying, “It is well recognized that distracted driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality.  We are asking employers to send a clear message to workers and supervisors that your company neither requires nor condones texting while driving.”  As a business owner or manager, it is your legal responsibility under the OSH Act to safeguard drivers at work.  OSHA has vowed to act quickly when it receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity.  OSHA asserts that it will investigate and will issue citations and penalties where necessary to end the practice.

According to OSHA, employers should:

  • Prohibit texting while driving. OSHA encourages employers to declare their vehicles “text-free zones” and to emphasize that commitment to their workers, customers, and communities.
  • Establish work procedures and rules that do not make it necessary for workers to text while driving in order to carry out their duties.
  • Set up clear procedures, times, and places for drivers’ safe use of texting and other technologies for communicating with managers, customers, and others.
  • Incorporate safe communications practices into worker orientation and training.
  •  Eliminate financial and other incentive systems that encourage workers to text while driving.

If you have questions about OSHA, please contact Steve O’Day.

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