OSHA Bans Texting While Driving

by Deborah Z Mark

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced an initiative to counter work-related distracted driving.  OSHA’s first target is texting while driving.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of worker fatalities.

Based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, the risk of a crash or near-crash event for a driver who is texting is more than 23 times higher than that of an undistracted driver!

Lawmakers have taken action regarding distracted driving: In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order banning federal employees from texting while driving government-owned vehicles, using government-supplied electronic equipment, or when driving privately owned vehicles while on government business.

In January 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented regulations that prohibit commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.  Several states now have similar bans.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employers have a duty to provide a workplace free of serious recognized hazards.

On October 4, 2010, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, issued an open letter to employers about work-related distracted driving.  The letter states that employers have a “responsibility and legal obligation” to have a “clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving.”  Employers violate the OSH Act “if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job.”

April is National Distracted Driving Prevention Month

If your company does not yet have a distracted driving policy, it’s time to adopt one.  It will not only keep your employees and the general public safer, it may limit your company’s liability exposure.  Put the policy in writing and have your employees sign to acknowledge that they have read and will comply with the policy.  Communicate it verbally, take it seriously, and insist that the policy is enforced by management.  Everyone will benefit.

For help with company policy, call us.

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