Special Topics in Safety Management

Your Safe Cell-Phone-Use Policy: What Must It Cover?

With states putting bans on how cell phones are used and plaintiff attorneys suing aggressively, you need a policy to protect both your employees and your organization. Here are some of the points it should cover and a means to save the work of having to write it yourself.

As detailed in yesterday’s Advisor, California has now joined a growing number of states and localities banning or controlling cell-phone use while driving. Although it’s far from the only distraction that can take drivers’ attention off the road (eating, fooling with the radio– even shaving– are common sights!), cell-phone use is the one lawmakers have chosen to target.

It’s also the one plaintiff attorneys have chosen to frequently sue over when a cell-phone user causes an accident. Surprisingly (or maybe not when depth of pocket is considered), they also sue the offending driver’s employer, even if the employee was not driving during work time or using a company car or cell phone.

For these reasons … and most importantly, the safety of all concerned … experts are suggesting employers have a cell-phone-use policy on the books.

Is your safe cell-phone policy up to date? Do you even have one?  If not, don’t fret. We do, and it’s already written and ready to use, along with every other safety policy you’re likely to need, in BLR’s new Essential Safety Policies. Examine it at no cost and with no obligation to purchase. Click for details.

Such a policy, says Attorney Heather L. Skidmore, of the law firm Morrison Foerster, “will help ensure that employees are aware of their obligations under federal, state, and local rules and regulations regarding the use of cellular phones while driving.” By having such a policy … and enforcing it, she says, “employers can begin to build a defense to possible tort claims that may offer some protection should an employee become involved in an accident.”

What should a policy cover? Here are some suggestions from BLR’s best-selling new guide Essential Safety Policies and other sources:

· An absolute prohibition of cell-phone use while driving (or a requirement that drivers pull over to take or make calls).

· If phone use is necessary, mandatory use of a headset, which is now the law in California.

· Use of speed dialing to make calls. Employees should strive to plan their calls before they begin driving.

· Notice to the called party that you are driving and suspension of the call if traffic conditions become hazardous in any way.

· A ban on text messaging or reading text and of taking notes during a call.

· Acknowledgement that the policy has been read and will be followed, with violation subject to discipline, up to and including termination.

A Complete Prewritten Safety Policies Program

Of course, if you would rather not have to write your own policy from scratch, there’s one already written for you in the BLR Essential Safety Policies program. It’s one of dozens of safety-related policies included. Taken together, they provide the makings of a ready-to-modify or use- as-is safety handbook for all your workers. The legally compiled and reviewed policies are grouped into three major areas:

Get the safety policies you need without the work. They’re in BLR’s Essential Safety Policies program. Try it at no cost and no risk. Click to learn how.

  • Safety, including policies on PPE use, drugs and alcohol as detailed above, hazard communication, work rules, weather, fire and other emergencies, fitness for duty, and disciplinary procedures.

  • Health, including communicable diseases, required physicals, ergonomics, and workers’ compensation.

  • Security, including policies on visitors, portable electronic devices, contraband, workplace and domestic violence, among others. 

    The policies are backed by a tutorial on policy writing and essential materials such as handbook receipts. There are some 279 pages of material in all in the book version. A CD version is also available.

    If your organization could benefit from supplementing (or perhaps having for the first time) a complete set of safety policies, we highly recommend taking a 30-day, no-cost, no-obligation look at this program. Click here and we’ll be pleased to send it to you.

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