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INDIANAPOLIS — With the continued prevalence of on-the-job motor vehicle collisions, employers must find a way to address distracted driving, which often stems from cellphone use, according to experts speaking at the 2017 National Safety Council Congress & Expo on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Motor vehicle crashes have increased in the past two years, and there has been a 14% increase in motor vehicle deaths in that time, according to National Safety Council data.
“That is the highest increase over a two-year period since 1963. More than 1,000 people are suffering from life-changing injuries. We also know that the number one cause of on-the-job deaths are motor vehicle collisions,” said Jenny M. Burke, Itasca, Illinois-based senior director of advocacy at the National Safety Council.
Experts say distractions are a major cause of injury and death and that cellphone use is a top distraction. Drivers using cellphones, whether hand-held or hands-free, are four times more likely to crash.
“We did a survey at the council last year, and one of the things we found that was really interesting is what people tell you that they are actually willing to do if there are no rules involved. Seventy-nine percent of people admitted that if it were legal to make a phone call while driving, they would do it … 53% of people admitted to texting while they were driving or that they would text if it were legal,” Ms. Burke said. “We were shocked that even now that we know and we have had people come out and say this is a hazard, that we still have people that are doing it anyway.”
Experts say that employers need to take a strong stand and implement and enforce cellphone policies. Companies like Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., and Time Warner Cable Inc. have already implemented no-cellphone policies in the workplace.
“We recommend that (employers) ban cellphones from job sites and cabs of heavy equipment,” Ms. Burke said. “We recommend that there are safe limited zones to use cellphones, that they allow cellphone breaks so employees don’t feel like they are stranded and can’t make those phone calls.”
Experts say that making sure that these types of workplace safety policies are implemented will involve making sure that senior level employees follow through.
However, workers still should be able to make phone calls within certain parameters, Ms. Burke said.
“When you’re at a job from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., sometimes there are phone calls that have to get made and you need a little bit of time,” she said. “As employers, we need to be flexible and understand that there needs to be time set aside to make some of those call during the day. We need to provide a place to put those phones. Having that dedicated place serves as a reminder that we don’t need them here.”
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is continuing to enforce joint employer liability for temporary worker safety and plans to issue more guidance for employers, according to an agency official.