Thus states OSHA, in an open letter to employers:  “It is (the employer’s) responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that would include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving.  Companies are in violation of (OHSA) 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.”  This letter was written to kick off “Drive Safely Work Week”, an article we featured on this blog.

Has this policy been established at your workplace yet?  Several workplace employees have told me that they are not allowed to text while driving during work hours, and if caught doing so, they will be fired.  The Department of Labor and Department of Transportation are joining OSHA in this initiative by creating public awareness campaigns on the serious issue of distracted driving.  OSHA’s top priority is keeping workers safe.  Year after year the leading cause of worker fatalities is motor vehicle crashes.  Distracted driving increases the risk of a vehicle accident.

Federal employees are prohibited to text while driving.  Because it is well known that texting while driving is a hazard, it is imperative that employers do not encourage workers to text while driving, which violates everything that safety rules stand for.  As stated by Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, “Although communication technology helps businesses work smarter and faster, it does not justify the dramatically increased risk of injury and death that comes with texting and driving.”

There are thirty states that ban texting and driving for all drivers.  OSHA’s website features a video message and the letter mentioned above to showcase employer policies and team up with employer and labor associations to communicate OSHA’s message.  According to fellow blogger, Ken Oswald, a complete listing of current state laws on cell phone use and texting while driving can be found on the Governors Highway Safety Association’s website or the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. Also, Mr. Oswald states that OSHA has warned employers that it will investigate complaints that an employer requires or encourages texting while driving and penalties will be imposed to employers who fail to comply with its guidelines. 

In a separate report, Federal statistics include a code for factors involved in fatal crashes, which point to a big increase in inattentive driving.  “U.S. data combines  talking, eating, and using cell phones in the same group.  There has been a 42 per cent increase in fatal crashes in which the coder labeled inattention as a factor.”  (I recently received a comment on one of our latest  distracted driving blogs that questioned not only texting and talking on the cell phone, but also putting on makeup, reading, and other distractions while driving.  Good point.) 

Maybe when companies enforce these rules regarding texting and driving, those employees will adjust to not texting and driving during their free time.  It would be a better habit to turn the phone off and retrieve the messages when you are on your lunch break, or after you get home.  Hands-free phones should be the only type allowed, and even then, certain conversations may keep the driver from focusing on their driving.

Join in with OSHA and your state to make the highways safer.  Leave the phone off until your vehicle is stopped.  Their little answering machines work just fine!