If not, you could well have a problem. For the past several years, more and more states and cities have limited or banned drivers’ use of cell phones. Says the Web site DrivingLaws.org, “Although employer responsibility isn’t specifically defined in the cell phone legislation, there have been an increasing number of lawsuits relating to employer responsibility regarding mobile cell-phone use [by] employees.” With motor vehicle accidents the leading cause of work-related injuries, using cell phones and other communications devices behind the wheel ups the ante for litigation in case of death or injury, and other third-party claims against businesses. For example, if an employee has a traffic accident using a cell phone while driving on company business, you could face legal liability. What’s more, drivers injured while driving and telephoning on company time will generally be eligible for Workers Compensation benefits.
The first step in dealing with this exposure is to create and implement a cell-phone use policy for employees driving company vehicles. Although such a policy doesn’t completely protect you from legal responsibility for accidents or injuries that could occur while workers were using a company-owned vehicle, it demonstrates your forethought and responsibility.
This plan should provide guidelines for:
- Training. Provide training or instruction manuals so that employees know the features of their cell phone
- Safety. Remind employees not to dial or talk when driving conditions are hazardous, to keep conversations short, to tell the other person that the employee is calling while driving, and to turn off cell phones whenever they pump gas or use jumper cables.
- Making calls. Discourage cell-phone use behind the wheel and require drivers to stop when dialing their cell phones?
- Voice mail/caller ID. Make sure that drivers have these features on their cell phones so they can resist answering the phone while driving
- Accident/injury reports. Require employees to report any accidents or injuries resulting from cell-phone use phone while driving.
- Discipline. Punish workers who violate these safety rules or local or state laws about using cell phones behind the wheel.
For help in creating, or revamping, your company’s cell phone use policy, feel free to get in touch with our risk management professionals. Remember, “an ounce of prevention …”