I was doing some research on texting while driving the other day and came upon a letter written by OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels to employers. The letter was published as part of “Drive Safely Work Week,” last October. The message, however, has no expiration date:
U.S. Department of Labor?
Distracted driving has become an epidemic in the United States, and its often fatal consequences are a threat to your workers, your business and the public.
Because millions of workers’ jobs require them to spend part or all of their work day driving ? visiting clients and customers, making site visits, or delivering goods and services ? the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Transportation (DOT) are joining forces in a campaign to stop distracted driving and save lives.
Year after year, the leading cause of worker fatalities is motor vehicle crashes. There’s no question that new communications technologies are helping business 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.
The human toll is tragic. DOT reports that in 2009, more than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distraction and thousands more were injured. “Texting while driving” has become such a prominent hazard that 30 states now ban text messaging for all drivers.
OSHA is partnering with others across government, industry and the public to bring together important information and tools to attack texting while driving and other distracted driver hazards. We invite you to learn more about combating this problem at www.osha.gov and at DOT’s distracted driving website, www.distraction.gov.
Most employers want to do the right thing and protect their workers, and some have already taken action to prohibit texting while driving. It is your responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that would include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving. 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 job.
To combat the threat of distracted driving, we are prepared to act quickly. When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or who organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, we will investigate and where necessary issue citations and penalties to end this practice.
I invite you to join us in observing "Drive Safely Work Week," October 4-8. During this week and throughout the year, let’s work together to prevent workers from being injured and killed on the road.
David Michaels, PhD, MPH