New OSHA guidelines urge employers to implement strong policies against texting

While texting while driving is obviously dangerous, and illegal in many states, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently declared it to be a workplace hazard.“To satisfy the OSHA rule, employers should implement a clear written policy banning all cellular activities while driving,” says Reginald Belcher. “The policy should subject employees who violate the policy to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”Mr. Belcher recommends alerting employees to this policy by posting it on the company’s intranet, bulletin boards, and in company-provided automobiles, handbooks, and policy manuals.“Employers should require employees to sign written acknowledgements, declaring that they have read and understand the policy,” says Mr. Belcher. “If employers fail to take these proactive steps, they could be liable for injuries that third-parties suffer in accidents with employees who were text messaging or using a cellular device while driving. Or, the employee might have a viable workers’ compensation claim against the employer if the texting was work related.”In late 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a rule banning commercial vehicle operators from texting while driving. In addition, President Obama also banned this practice, via Executive Order, for all federal employees.