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Protect Your Employees and Your Company from Distracted Driving

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Protect employees and your company from distracted drivingAccording to the National Safety Council, 27 percent of auto accidents have one common factor: mobile phone use, and that statistic is growing.  Using electronics to talk, text or email (not to mention viewing or posting on social media) while driving seriously impacts our cognitive abilities:  we see less of our environment, react more slowly and have a false sense of confidence similar to intoxication.

Studies show that the majority people know it’s dangerous to use mobile phones while driving, but most of us do it anyway.  At any time during the day, 9 percent of drivers are using mobile phones.  Unfortunately, mobile phone use behind the wheel is the dangerous, new normal.  And many people do it while conducting company business.

Regardless of company size, industry or who owns the phone or the car, if employees use mobile phones for work communication, then you need a strong, up-to-date policy banning electronic device use while driving.  Auto accidents are the leading cause of work fatalities, and employees who use mobile phones for work while driving pose serious risks to themselves, the public and their employer. Yet many employers have no policy in place or have a narrow, ambiguous policy that doesn’t eliminate risks.

So what are the risks?  The most obvious are injuries or fatalities to an employee or a member of the public.  And employers can be legally liable for millions of dollars from injuries and property damage when work related mobile phone use results in an auto accident.  There are also other costs: property loss, increased insurance rates, business interruption, absenteeism, reduced productivity and damage to company reputation.  Even if no accident occurs, mobile phone use while driving can put an employer in violation of federal law.  OSHA can fine a business up to $70,000 if that business requires, encourages or makes necessary texting while driving.

What makes an effective policy?

An effective policy must meet three criteria: 1) it must be written, 2) it must be broad enough to protect the company, and 3) it must be enforced consistently.

Many employers do not have a written policy. Some feel they are not at risk; others assume that a presentation or one-time email blast to discourage mobile phone use while driving is enough.  But as the old saying goes, nothing is official unless you put it in writing.  It can be a standalone document, or part of the company’s employee handbook.  It should require an individual employee signature that can be placed in a personnel file.

But even a written policy is only as good as the wording.  Many policies have narrow wording or special exceptions that don’t eliminate risk.  They may only address certain behaviors, like talking, but not texting or emailing.  Or they may apply to only company cars and phones, or to certain employees.  Some allow “hands-free” technology, even though numerous studies have established that being “hands-free” does not reduce the chances of an accident.

Another common flaw is wording a policy to match state or municipal law.  Like policies, mobile phone laws can be narrow and outdated.  They are poor benchmarks for protection from liability.  So if the law and your policy allow for “hands-free” mobile use, the company may still be found liable by a civil jury for an accident where the employee was talking “hands-free” for work.

So what makes an effective “distracted driving” or mobile phone use policy?  The policy should ban any and all business-related communication or work by an employee via electronic device while driving, including texting and use of hands-free devices.  It should cover all employees, all vehicles, all company-owned devices, and all work-related communication, regardless of who owns the phone or the car.  It should lay out clear disciplinary action, and it should be reviewed annually.

Enforcement:  the final hurdle.

In our fast-paced world, we all depend on our phones, so fears of reduced productivity can make employers hesitant to enforce a policy.  Yet a company with an unenforced policy has the same level of protection as a company with no policy.  And most employers who enforce a full ban report no decrease in productivity.

Any new or updated policy should get a major “roll-out”, with meetings and an opportunity for questions and answers.  It should also be specifically addressed during orientation for new hires.  There should also be regular reminders to all employees about the policy.  Disciplinary action should be consistently enforced for all violations.  And management should be continually educated on appropriate expectations, so that employees are not placed in situations where they might feel required or encouraged use a mobile phone while driving.  Promote a company culture where all team members understand management’s expectations and put safety first.

A policy that bans business communication on a mobile phone while driving can seem challenging, but work-related auto accidents are a serious concern for employers.  An effective written policy will help protect you from risk and reinforce to your employees that their safety is your priority.  If you have any questions regarding implementing, updating or enforcing a mobile phone policy, call Staff One HR!

Contact the author directly at tiffany.stevenson@staffone.com.

Image:  Andriy Popov

Dallas vs. Oklahoma City: Where is the Grass Greener?

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Dallas-vs-OKC-where-is-the-grass-greenerFor business owners considering growth into one of these key markets, it’s essential to understand the potential of each location.  Did you know that Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is 62 percent larger than Dallas, Texas?  (By square miles anyway).  Conversely, the population of Dallas is more than twice that of Oklahoma City.  Talk about traffic nightmares!  To a degree, Oklahoma City is still a wide open space and Dallas is a bustling metropolis.  What does this mean from an employment perspective?  These two cities are barely 200 miles apart and share many regional attributes, but have significant differences as well. Continue reading “Dallas vs. Oklahoma City: Where is the Grass Greener?”

8 Great Ways to Improve Your Company Culture

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8 great ways to improve company cultureCompany culture and employee engagement must begin at the highest levels of an organization.  A grassroots movement from rank-and-file employees cannot be successful if the company’s leaders are not on board.  When your C-level team shows enthusiasm and willingness to participate in company events, allocate funds for team-building activities, and listen to and act on feedback from employees at all levels, your company culture will indeed thrive.

Continue reading “8 Great Ways to Improve Your Company Culture”

Answer These 4 Questions for a Great Company Party

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Company-holiday-partyWho doesn’t love a good holiday party?  Hosting company holiday parties is a great way for employers to bring people together and celebrate their accomplishments at the end of the year.  They are an effective tool for promoting employee engagement and connection among staff members.  Employees have an opportunity to get to know one another, relax, and have fun.  It sounds great, but employers who host holiday parties can be held liable for alcohol-related accidents, wage claims, and harassment claims.

Careful planning can help minimize your risk, so before you send your invitations, ask yourself these questions: Continue reading “Answer These 4 Questions for a Great Company Party”

The Best Week Ever: Make New Employees Love Your Company

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I-love-my-jobOn Monday, October 10, 2016, I started work with Staff One HR.  Senior Recruiter Mark Franklin conducted my new employee orientation and also gave me the grand tour of our office and the building. I met so many of my new coworkers, and everyone was extremely nice. My bosses took me to lunch that day so we could get better acquainted. As the week went on, I found it incredibly refreshing how helpful all my teammates were. HR Generalist Marissa Corken provided one-on-one training and my other team members approached me to ask if there was anything I needed. I felt so welcome!

I’d like to share three highlights (so many to choose from!) that left me with the most favorable impression of Staff One’s onboarding process: Continue reading “The Best Week Ever: Make New Employees Love Your Company”

Four Keys for Transitioning from a Military to a Civilian Career

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Transitioning from military to civilian workforceAfter spending 27 years in the Navy (Intelligence), I’m working full time as a recruiter for an HR Managed Services company.  Transitioning from the military to a civilian workplace doesn’t have to be difficult.  Here are four tips to smooth the way:

Plan.  As in your military training, plan, plan the plan, and plan then the tertiary plans. Then plan to have to adapt and overcome. Plan early and communicate often. It’s never too early to contact a recruiter. The good ones provide their services to job hunters at no cost. Recruiters also typically work with many other organizations in the area, so if they can’t place you, they may know someone who can. Continue reading “Four Keys for Transitioning from a Military to a Civilian Career”

Should Employees Work While “Out Sick?”

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Should employees work from home while out sickFall is upon us!  While the thought of pumpkin spice lattes and cooler weather may bring a smile, don’t forget that this also means that flu season is close at hand.  Employers should ensure that they are prepared with a solid plan on how to handle requests from ill employees who want to work from home.

Increasing numbers of employers have begun to offer telecommuting options to employees as a job perk.  But what about employees who want to work from home while they are sick?  Should it be allowed? Continue reading “Should Employees Work While “Out Sick?””

3 Ways To Invest in Your Employees

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invest in your employees with training, culture and benefitsWhen you think of “investing in your employees,” you likely think first of employee benefits or vacation days, but the reality is that in today’s market, employees expect more than just the basics. Top employers must now go the extra mile in order to create loyalty and retain your best performers.  Here are three simple ways you can invest in your current and future employees. Continue reading “3 Ways To Invest in Your Employees”

Invest In Managers for Big Returns

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Training for managersIs being a good manager inherent, or is it a learned skill?

Good management doesn’t just happen automatically.  Managers aren’t born knowing how to manage effectively.  They must be coached and taught how to handle delicate personnel issues, how to motivate employees, how to stay current on the latest updates in employment laws, and so much more. Continue reading “Invest In Managers for Big Returns”