mployers with mobile employees should make sure that they are taking a proactive approach to ensuring that these employees are using their cell phones in a safe manner and not putting themselves and bystanders at risk of injury. Any employer with mobile employees should have a cell phone safety policy in place that clearly defines if and how cell phone usage is allowed while driving and what the repercussions for breaking the policy are. To help ensure that the cell phone safety policy is enforceable, reasonably fair, and realistic, employers might seek the input of their mobile employees and management team when creating the policy. Here are seven policy options to consider:
- Safety Training For Drivers. Of course, you should ensure that all drivers of company vehicles have a valid driver’s license. Your policy should also definitely require that any mobile employee using a company vehicle complete a driver safety and defensive driving course before being handed the keys to a company vehicle. These safety courses often include demonstrations related to driver distraction from cell phone usage. This can be a real eye-opener for drivers that might have never seen the devastation caused by vehicle crashes firsthand. (…continued) 5 5 5 5 5 5 (…continued from previous page)
- Post Warnings in All Company Vehicles. A concise notice should be posted in all company vehicles. The notice should clearly state that cell phones shouldn’t be used while driving and that if the phone call is an emergency, then the operator should let a passenger make the call or pull over before using the cell phone.
- Hands-Free Device Option. If feasible, your policy might be that mobile employees can only use hands-free devices when driving. While providing your mobile employees with a hands-free device isn’t going to ensure that the worker isn’t distracted by a phone conversation, hands-free devices have been shown to reduce distraction.
- Answering Services or Call Forwarding Options. It might be hard for mobile workers and those trying to contact them to adjust to an answering service or call forwarding option, especially if workers have previously been allowed to make calls or answer their phone while driving, but the convenience of immediately answering or making a phone call during driving activities simply isn’t worth the risk and liability. After the mobile worker arrives at their destination, then they can check their messages and make appropriate return phone calls.
- Turn the Cell Phone Off. Your cell phone safety policy could include the mobile employee shutting the cell phone off while he/she is driving the company vehicle. The employee can turn their cell phone on to make needed calls or check their answering or call waiting service once they’ve arrived at their destination. If turning the cell phone off is part of your cell phone safety policy as a method to reduce driver distraction, then the policy should also include any passengers turning their cell phones off as well.
- Let Employees Take Responsibility. Most employees aren’t going to adhere to a policy that’s all talk and no action. The cell phone safety policy might also include making employees take responsibility for any fines or additional vehicle operation costs incurred from traffic violations related to illegal cell phone usage. The policy might also state a more harsh disciplinary measure for workers that acquire a certain amount of traffic violations.
- Banning Cell Phones from Company Vehicles. Before making a total cell phone ban part of a cell phone safety policy, employers should understand that this could leave the employee unable to contact emergency services in the event of an accident or emergency. So, completely banning the use of company or personal cell phones during driving should only be considered after careful thought and as a last resort. It might be necessary if mobile employees continually ignore the above policy options or have repetitive cell phone traffic infractions.