By Brent I. Clark, James L. Curtis, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen
Seyfarth Synopsis: Last month at the 2018 National Safety Council (NSC) Congress the speakers noted that “safety programs shouldn’t end when employees walk out the door and get into a vehicle to drive.” The session was presented by Karen Puckett, the Director for the Center for Environmental Excellence Division of Enterprise Development at the University of Texas at Arlington, and Lisa Robinson, Senior Program Manager for Employer Transportation Safety, for the NSC.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics provided that in 2017 transportation deaths from crashes were the leading cause of workplace deaths in the USA. These statistics are often lost on safety professionals because OSHA has no jurisdiction over transportation incidents on public roads. Additionally, 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that 40% of employment fatalities were due to transportation incidents.
Puckett noted that the goal for the NSC’s program was to have considered the best practices for employees who drive for work. This employment-based driving included not just fleet trucks and other vehicles, which are normally considered in company employee driving policies and training programs, but also any personally-owned employee vehicles and rental cars, vans, and other trucks that employees may use while doing company business. Puckett explained that vehicles outside of the regular company fleet are often overlooked.
Puckett’s key takeaway was that the company’s personnel policy on driving and accident prevention and the related training materials and systems need to incorporate a recognition of these powerful statistics. Employers need to build a workplace that promotes responsible driver behaviors, maintenance procedures and records, and effective training programs.
Robinson noted that the employer may also face considerable liability for any fatalities that come from employees driving on company business, however that is demanded by state law in the many states and localities the company may operate in. Perhaps common sense behaviors for employee drivers to know are company policies prohibiting driving impaired by drugs or alcohol, driving while using a cellphone such as checking email, texting, or using the phone. Many company policies do not incorporate these kinds of prohibitions.
Robinson concluded by illustrating numerous multi-million dollar jury verdicts and settlement agreements where employers were held responsible — even some where the employee was involved in activities or behaviors that some might reasonably suggest were not in the line of their employment.
For your further information, we have previously blogged on these related issues, including Drive Much? NIOSH Focus on Workplace Safety for Employees Who Drive for Their Job, President Declares “National Impaired Driving Prevention Month”, Asleep at the Wheel: Trucking Company’s Sleep Apnea Policy and Procedures Reviewed by Federal Courts, Impact of Driver Compensation on Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety, Eleventh Circuit Finds Insurance Carrier Responsible In Georgia For Harm Done by Intoxicated Employee, Employees Driving In Illinois? What Employers Need to Know, and Distracted Driving Leads to Employee Accidents and Fatalities.
For employers the key points from this session are that employee behavior on public roadways could have a big impact on the workplace. The employer should have appropriate policies and training systems in place as part of a comprehensive safety program, with an aim to “improve your workplace driving safety culture.”
For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) or Workplace Policies and Handbooks Teams.