OSHA Launches Online Resource to Prevent Distracted Driving

In conjunction with Drive Safely Work Week (Oct. 4-8), OSHA recently announced an education campaign calling on employers to prevent work-related distracted driving, with a special focus on prohibiting texting while driving.

"Year after year, the leading cause of worker fatalities is motor vehicle crashes," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA. "There's no question that new communications technologies are helping businesses work smarter and faster. But getting work done faster does not justify the dramatically increased risk of injury and death that comes with texting while driving."

Part of OSHA's education outreach is a new webpage aimed at those whose workplaces are the cars, vans, and trucks that deliver the goods and services on which the nation's economy depends, and their employers. This online resource will inform workers of their rights, and employers of their responsibility to provide safe workplaces, and offer best practices and policies on achieving safe workplaces in motor vehicles. Information and continual updates is available at www.osha.gov/distracted-driving.

An open letter to employers, also posted online, requests that companies examine their policies and practices, informs them that they have a legal obligation to prohibit workplace hazards such as texting while driving, and asks them to immediately remove any incentives that may motivate employees to text while behind the wheel.

"OSHA's message to all companies whose employees drive on the job is straightforward: It is your responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against texting while driving," Michaels said. "Companies are 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 jobs. OSHA will investigate worker complaints, and employers who violate the law will be subject to citations and penalties."

Last month, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a partnership with the Department of Transportation to combat distracted driving. Prohibiting texting while driving is also the subject of an executive order signed by President Obama last year for federal employees and the subject of rulemaking by the Department of Transportation.

DOT reports that in 2009 more than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distraction and thousands more were injured. In particular, texting while driving has become such a prominent hazard that 30 states now ban text messaging for all drivers. Learn more about combating texting while driving and other distracted driver hazards at the DOT website, visit www.distraction.gov.

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