February 21, 2011 Leave a comment
By Laura Calhoun and Todd Albin
Motor vehicle crashes have long been the leading cause of worker fatalities, and in recent years, drivers distracted by activities such as texting are often found to be the cause. Based on National Highway Safety Administration data, the risk of a crash or near-crash by a driver who is texting is more than 23 times higher than that of an undistracted driver. As a result, texting while driving was prohibited for Federal employees by a 2009 Executive Order signed by President Obama. The Department of Labor through OSHA has now partnered with the Department of Transportation to stop distracted driving on the job in the private sector as well.
As part of this initiative, OSHA now requires employers to ban employees from texting while driving. Specifically, per OSHA, an employer has a responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that duty includes include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving.
Likewise, per OSHA, Employers will be considered in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health 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. OSHA has made clear that when it receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, OSHA will investigate and, where necessary, issue citations and penalties to end this practice. 
By implementing policies prohibiting texting, employers will meet their new legal obligations and take great strides toward helping to keep their employees and others safe on the roads.