The Text Message That Could Be Your Last

 

Cell phone/texting use while driving is arguably one of the most important and controversial issues in workplace policy and regulation today.

 

 

You Know It is Dangerous, Don’t Do It

 

No one argues that texting or cell use and driving is dangerous, the evidence is clear as day. If you text/call and drive it is only a matter of time before you will either have an incident or narrowly avoid tragedy. Some companies will take heed and do what they can to stop this behavior; others will ignore common sense and continue. I present these facts in an effort to have as many implement change as possible.

 

Next what about cell phone use? Statistics indicate and law suit settlements speak loudly. Though we may feel that cell phone use is not as hazardous as texting, industry groups recommend a ban on cell use at all times while behind the wheel, most Fortune 500 companies have instituted a no cell policy. The cold hard facts are there in black and white. One can be certain these firms have conducted exhaustive risk assessments. To ignore these facts would be at your company’s peril.

 

 

Have a Written Policy and Enforce It

 

As employers we must put in place firm written policy as well as conduct training. I recommend furthering this policy and training by having each employee that drives a company vehicle, or uses their own for company business sign a document that indicates they have received this training and are familiar with company policy. As well, as the employer we must also show enforcement of this policy with written discipline for any violation. If you have had your policy in place for some time and an incident does occur you must be able to show that you have addressed any past employee violations, if not, in the event of a law suit you could be forced to show you did not put in place a ‘wink-wink” policy. If you do not show a constant policy and procedure you most likely will not prevail.

 

As employers we can chose to use the current progressive discipline program you have in place for other safety violations. I however recommend a no second chance status for this violation. It is that serious. One only needs to take a brief look at the results of recent settlements regarding texting and driving. You will find some of the highest payouts in employer suits. Just recently I have seen $21.6 million and $16.1 million dollar settlements in employee publications. I include these cases to make the point. I hope the dollar amounts shock many employers into solid changes. However, we should be doing this for more than the threat of loss, it is also the right thing to do.

 

 

Implement Training for Callback System

 

What kind of training should we have for this? I suggest including whatever it takes to get the point across. In this instance I would use shocking video, pictures of accidents and threat of discipline. In other words, until we see the type of compliance we do with seat belt use we need to be strong and direct in our resolve to change employee perception, habit and actions. We should also strive to change employee habits when driving for personal use. Your insurance carrier will have a program, many carriers will have already sent presentation items for you to use, If not ask for them. As well many carriers will send someone to conduct training. Safety consultants also offer training that can be customized to your individual needs. Whatever choice is best for you I suggest to do it NOW.

 

I recently called a vendor I use and got the following message. “In the interest of safety we do not answer any calls while driving, if you have received this message during regular work hours I am on the other line or driving, I will call you back promptly when call is done or I have reached my destination”. I was impressed; I immediately gained respect for this firm.

 

In reality just how many calls require such immediate action that we can not wait until we have reached our destination? I suggest considering the following if possible with your employees that drive for you. One possible policy is to require your drivers to pull over every so often to retrieve messages and deal with clients. In reality we may think “we are only answering the phone”, if you think on it, if the call is for business it will also require writing down information from the client. Can you drive and write down an order or take customers info or address and be safe? The answer is obvious, if we are driving, how can we keep our mind on the road and take down an order, directions or a number to call.

 

I suggest the following if you have employees that use a cell for their work. Have them include in their answer message that in the interest of safety your policy is not to take calls while driving, you can refer them to someone at office for immediate response, set a time limit for retrieving messages. Have employees stop at this interval and retrieve messages and return calls.

 

It is very important where employees stop. I often see people stopped on the side of the road or even in the stop lane on expressway. THIS IS HAZARDOUS! Do not allow this and include in training the reasons this is dangerous. Ask any police officer, they will tell you that just being on the side of a road is a hazard. Other driver’s eyes are diverted momentarily at your car and many accidents are caused just by a cars presence on the roadside. Instruct employees to exit the road and park in a parking lot or convenience store to take and receive calls. There they will be safe and can give your customer the undivided attention they deserve. In addition your firm will be perceived to be on the cutting edge of safety and that you care about them and your employees.

 

 

Be Aware of Other Distractions

 

Cell phone/texting use is not the only distracted driving hazard.  Also included in your policy and training should be eating, grooming and any other distractions can kill. Open up your training for employees to share other examples of distracted driving, much will be gained by encouraging them to participate. I have found in classes I conduct that much good information relevant to each client comes from asking the class to participate.

 

Start Today

IN short, this is a critical policy change that I find far to many companies not addressing. The risk is high and the work and time involved to make required changes is small. Consider beginning today if you do not have a policy in place

Author Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com


 


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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Sexual Themed Text Messages End in Sexual Harassment Award

The BC Human Rights Tribunal awarded a worker nearly $8,000 after finding complaints of sexual harassment from a co-worker played a role in her termination.
According to Canadian OH&S News in the September 15 ruling, tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams ordered the worker's employer to pay over $2,900 in lost wages compensation as well as $5,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect. The employer, Dave's Custom Metal Works Ltd. in Port Coquitlam, BC, was also required to provide each current employee with a copy of the ruling. (WCxKit)
Corina Soroka was terminated on Sept. 9, 2009 after she complained to plant owner Dave Rouleau about an incident the previous day in which supervisor Ian MacDonnell took her to a home shop to discuss a previous incident. That first event occurred on July 28, 2009, one day after Soroka took time off work because of a crushed finger she suffered while cutting metal at the shop.
After the workplace injury, MacDonnell obtained Soroka's cell phone number, called her and the two workers later exchanged more than two dozen sexually themed text messages. Rouleau issued a verbal disciplinary warning to MacDonnell after he found out about the incident, the decision says. The supervisor also received a disciplinary warning for insubordination on the day Soroka was fired.
"I find that Mr. MacDonnell acted from confused and contradictory motives," Geiger-Adams writes in the decision. "I accept that, on the one hand, he wanted to make things right with Ms Soroka so that they could continue to work together, but that, on the other hand, he continued to press her, against her expressly-stated wishes and feelings, to accept that his interest in her was understandable and even justified. He did so in a setting that he had engineered by using his authority to direct her work – one in which she was isolated and vulnerable," Geiger-Adams writes.
In awarding damages to the worker, the tribunal member found that "sex discrimination was at least part of the reason Rouleau terminated Soroka's employment, but that, even in the absence of the contraventions, Soroka's employment would likely have ended at the end of October, 2009" as it was subject to the availability of work.
In the ruling, Geiger-Adams found that the employer discriminated against the worker in three ways.
First, MacDonnell used his access, through his employment, to Soroka's private cell phone number, in order to contact her at home to "follow up on the sexual and perhaps romantic interest in her he first expressed in the workplace on July 24 . . . even though she immediately made it clear through her text messages that his interest was not reciprocated."
Second, in spite of a verbal reprimand, MacDonnell used his authority as a supervisor to take her away from the workplace to his home, "and there to both threaten to interfere with her employment, and make further inappropriate sexual comments to her." (WCxKit)
 Finally, Rouleau decided to "abruptly terminate Soroka's employment when he did in order to 'solve' the problem created for him by MacDonnell's conduct, and Soroka's complaints about that conduct," the decision says.
Geigar-Adams says the plant owner apparently reasoned that, "even though Soroka was the victim of what he twice identified as MacDonnell's inappropriate conduct toward her, her employment was short-term, and it was easier to remove her from the workplace than deal further with the conduct of the perpetrator."
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. Contact:  Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
 
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WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php
MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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