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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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