Distracted driving: An important part of workplace safety plans

Employees must be reminded about proper cellphone usage.

Employees must be reminded about proper cellphone usage.

Distracted driving remains a top cause of concern for both employers and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA previously tackled this issue in 2010 by launching an educational campaign to combat distracted driving.

Distracted Driving Initiative

Distracted driving is cause for concern for public and private sectors. According to OSHA, the No. 1 cause of worker fatalities is motor vehicle crashes.

“The No. 1 cause of worker fatalities annually are motor vehicle crashes.”

With many employees relying on smartphones for work functions, it’s easy to see where distractions might come from. Important phone calls and emails can cause a driver to take his or her eyes off the road for a split second, and that quick glance can be life-changing.

As part of its Distracting Driving Initiative, OSHA has partnered with the Department of Transportation to highlight best practices while behind the wheel and help employers ensure workers are kept safe.

An employer’s responsibility

As part of an existing safety plan, companies should also implement policies on distracted driving.

Putting up signs around the workplace will help provide visual references about distracted driving hazards. Additionally, companies can also require everyone to sign a policy. A sample can be found on Distraction.gov.

These policies can be tailored to specific needs, but they should contain common elements. For example, phones shouldn’t be used at all while driving, even while sitting at a red light. If a call must be made, drivers should be reminded that they need to pull over first.

Another best practice involves turning devices to silent or vibrate to prevent ringtones from causing a distraction. Employees who constantly handle client communications should inform clients that calls and/or emails may not be returned right away because they’ll be driving.

Company policies will also need to include repercussions for breaking the rules.

Federal government’s response

Smart devices are an essential part of a worker’s life. Driving distraction-free therefore falls under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which instructs all employers to provide safe workplaces, which includes driving on the job.

And in 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13513 – Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving, which officially went into effect in early 2010.

This rule prohibits all federal employees from using devices while operating a federal vehicle. They are also barred from texting when driving private vehicles while on official government business.

Executive Order 13513 even impacts private employers who work as contractors for federal agencies. Contractors are encouraged to adopt similar policies.

TruckWorkers need to reminded about the dangers of distracted driving.

Why these policies are important

By following the federal government’s lead, companies will also be able to benefit from lower insurer rates, according to attorney Martha Buyer, writing for No Jitter.

Buyer also recommended that distraction-free policies be considered living documents. Technology is constantly changing. As it does, the number of ways a driver to become distracted will keep increasing. By having policies in place, employers are able to update them when appropriate.

Workplace safety doesn’t just encompass fall hazards or requiring workers to wear respirators. Complete policies should take all facets into account, including distracted driving. Doing so will go a long way toward reducing motor vehicle crashes and fatalities.