Distracted Driving – A Workplace Hazard that Comes at a High Price for Employers and Employees
Written by Jenn Miller, Curriculum Development Coordinator
DISTRACTED DRIVING IS A GROWING CONCERN
In Ontario, distracted driving has become anincreasing cause for concern. In 2013, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that distracted driving fatalities surpassed the number of impaired and speed-related road deaths in Ontario (1). Distracted drivers are fours times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road (2). For this reason, OSG encourages you to put down the phone, and pay attention to the road.
Have you asked yourself if your business is worth the cost of distracted driving? As an employer, you are liable for an employee who injures him or herself, or injures another, while driving distracted. The cost of such an incident could bankrupt your business and cost thousands or millions in legal fees and fines.
WHAT CONSTITUTES DISTRACTED DRIVING?
Sometimes, people do not understand what exactly constitutes distracted driving. Using your phone to talk or text, read a map, or to choose or switch a song (3) is distracted driving. The easiest way to avoid distracted driving is to not use any devices while behind the wheel; however, some exceptions are hands-free devices, or a mounted device, like a GPS (Global Positioning System). Reading, applying makeup, and using other electronic devices, such as portable DVD players, are also considered to be distracting to drivers. So far, eating, smoking, and changing the radio station have not been specifically defined as distracted driving.
EMPLOYERS ARE LIABLE FOR EMPLOYEES WHO DRIVE DISTRACTED
According to the Canadian Criminal Code, anyone who has the authority to direct how another person works has a legal duty to prevent bodily harm to that person that arises from the work (4). Therefore, employers may face liability if an employee is injured or injures another while driving and using a hand-held device, if it can be proven that the employer did not take reasonable precautions to prevent such accidents.
Bazley v. Curry – A Canadian Precedent
In the leading case on employer liability for employee conduct (Bazley v. Curry), it was determined that employers are “ vicariously liable for (a) acts of employees that are authorized by the employer and (b) unauthorized acts that are related to conduct authorized by the employer.” (5)
THE US IS LEADING THE WAY
A growing number of US employers have been found liable for employees who drive distracted:
An American truck driver who was checking his phone messages caused a ten-car pile up and killed three people. The employer was found liable, and the accident cost the company 24.7 million dollars.
An employee on his way to work crashed and was injured. Although the employee was not in a work vehicle or on work time, the employer was found liable for the accident because the employee was on the phone with his employer at the time of the accident, dealing with a work-related issue. The accident cost the employer one million dollars in damages (6).
An employee driving a company car while chatting with her husband on the phone hit another car, forcing it into oncoming traffic, where it was struck head-on. The driver of the other vehicle was killed. The employer was found liable, and the accident cost the company 21.6 million dollars.
The common thread is that employers are more consistently being held accountable for employees who injure themselves or others while driving distracted. Although the examples are American, Canadian courts are following suit. In Ontario, the case of Walker v. Ritchie resulted in an employer paying over one million dollars in damages after an employee who was found to be driving distracted caused an accident that resulted in catastrophic injuries to a 17 year-old girl. As the Canadian justice system and government starts to take aim at distracted driving, the numbers of employers being fined for employee conduct behind the wheel will no doubt increase.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF?
The best way to protect yourself against distracted driving lawsuits on behalf of your employees is to ensure that you have a zero-tolerance policy in place that bans distracted driving in work vehicles or in personal vehicles being operated for work purposes. In the event of an accident, an employer needs to be able to prove due diligence. This can be done by developing a policy that explicitly states the expectations of the employer with regard to hand-held devices and driving. Have all employees sign off on the policy.
Sometimes, employers inadvertently create the expectation that distracted driving is okay, by having policies that require that all emails must be answered in a timely manner, or that all phone calls from the office be answered. Be sure that you don’t have any policies currently in place that may create a situation where an employee feels he or she must drive distracted.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR WORKERS?
All employers who have employees that drive for any work-related purpose should have a policy in place that lists definitions, rules, and consequences for distracted driving.
Direct staff to never accept or make calls while driving, unless hands-free capability is activated
Ensure staff understand that there will be zero tolerance for reading or sending texts or emails while driving
Have staff change voice mail notifications to indicate that they are driving, and will return calls when they are safely parked
Emphasize that distracted driving is illegal
Ensure hands-free capability where appropriate
Follow up with disciplinary action where appropriate
Direct staff that if a call must be taken or a text sent, that they absolutely must pull over safely before doing so
Keeping your employees safe is your responsibility, and you must ensure that staff understand the impact of distracted driving. Is one text message, phone call, or email worth the following consequences?
Higher insurance costs
Loss of license
A personal lawsuit
A business lawsuit
A bad driving abstract
The cost of the damage to work property
The cost of replacing a personal vehicle
The LIFE of another
At the end of the day, no text message or phone call will ever be worth your life or the life of another, nor will it be worth the cost of losing your business. Workers want to return home at the end of the working day, safely and in the same condition which they arrived to work. One of the single most effective ways to ensure that employees drive safe is to ensure that distracted driving is understood to be a workplace hazard, and is treated as such. Thoughtful training and efficient policies and programs can help you to ensure that distracted driving is not a hazard in your workplace.
OSG Can Help!
OSG offers due diligence training, and we also offer consulting services to aid you in the creation of policies specific to your workplace. If you require due diligence training, assistance writing a distracted driving policy, or have general health and safety questions or concerns, please let OSG help. Call 800-815-9980 to speak to a Health and Safety expert today. You may also visit us on the web, at www.osg.ca.
“Sara, thank you for your quick response. You have answered all my questions and concerns in a timely fashion: as usual. I appreciate your excellent customer service, keep up the great work!”
-Mark Kinnear, City of Peterborough “Awesome Job! Very well done! I actually learned something I was not aware of and I have instructed Confined Space for almost 10 years!”
– Mark Buck, Cami Automotive Inc.
MOL Blitzes and New Legislation
Written by Jeff Thorne, Manager of Training and Consulting
Mobile Cranes and Materials Hoisting Blitz August 1 – September 30, 2016
This month, the Ministry of Labour is focusing blitzes on mobile cranes and materials hoisting. Since 2011, 3 workers have died, and an astounding 12 more have been seriously injured in incidents involving mobile cranes. There have also been 66 close calls and minor injuries reported. These can happen when the crane tips, or when the load drops or swings and crushes a worker. Cranes that contact energy sources are also a hazard. The Ministry of Labour will be focusing on these hazards during their blitz inspections this month. They will be: looking at logbooks to make sure that they are complete, ensuring that competent operators are trained, and confirming that all cranes are properly maintained and inspected.
July 18 – September 2, 2016
Workers new to a job are three times more likely to be injured on the job than experienced workers. Between 2011 and 2015, 33 young workers aged 15 to 24 died in work-related incidents, according to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) statistics. In 2015, five young workers died. The blitz focuses on general duties of workplace parties to ensure minimum age requirements are met and workers are provided with protective devices, information, instruction and supervision. This blitz continues until September 2, 2016.
Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act comes into force on September 8, 2016. This Act primarily amends Part III.0.1 Violence and Harassment, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Employers will be required to review their harassment program to ensure the following:
Workplace sexual harassment is defined and understood
The JHSC has been consulted regarding the development of the harassment program
Clearly defined reporting requirements exist, especially when the alleged harasser is a manager or supervisor
Both parties are informed of the corrective action received if there is a policy violation
The Ministry of Labour is proposing amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation (O. Reg. 297/13) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The changes would affect employers who work in construction as defined by the Act. The goal of the proposed change is to reduce the number of workplace accidents in the construction industry and increase general safety awareness to workers in the industry by creating a mandatory construction hazard awareness training course.
The MOL is accepting comments until Friday, August 12, 2016. Click here for more information.
FALL HAZARDS BLITZ May 16-July 15, 2016
Working at Heights in construction continues to be a strong focus for the Ministry of Labour. From May 16 to July 15, 2016 the MOL visited 3034 workplaces, issuing 9391 orders, with 595 of those orders being stop-work orders. Stop-work orders are typically issued when an inspector finds that the contravention of the Act may result in a direct danger or hazard to the worker. The blitz is focusing on lack of compliance with section 26 of the Construction Regulations. Lack of guardrails, absence of appropriate training, and misuse of access equipment were the most consistent issues identified by the MOL.
JHSC PART 2 SIX MONTH TRAINING DEADLINE September 1, 2016 – ongoing
As of March 1st, 2016, the MOL requires that to become JHSC certified, JHSC Part 2 training must be completed within 6 months of successfully completing JHSC Part 1. For example, if you completed JHSC Part 1 on March 1st, your deadline to complete JHSC Part 2 is September 1, 2016.
If JHSC members do not complete JHSC Part 2 within six months of completing JHSC Part 1, they will be required to complete an MOL-approved refresher course at an additional expense to their company. JHSC Part 2 must still be completed within 6 months of completing the refresher course.
Written by Jeff Thorne, Manager of Training and Consulting
HOW OFTEN DO YOU HAVE TO TRAIN ON WHMIS?
This question comes up quite frequently and I’ve heard many answers over the years. I’ve heard you only have to do it once; you have to do it annually, or every three years. I’ve even heard that it doesn’t matter. So what is correct?
Part IV of the Act deals with Toxic Substances and outlines requirements for the identification and assessment of hazardous materials in the workplace and the instruction and training required if there is a likelihood of exposure. s.42.(3) Review, states that an employer must review, in consultation with the JHSC (20+ employees) or the health and safety rep. (6-19 employees) the training and instruction provided to a worker and how familiar the worker is with that training at least annually.
So what is the employer’s obligation? Do we need to conduct full-blown training or can we do a basic review? This depends on your environment, the hazardous material present, the training that has already been provided and how the handling, use, storage, transport and disposal of hazardous materials are managed.
If you are auditing these elements on an annual basis and find that workers are not familiar with the nature of the chemicals they are exposed or likely to be exposed to, they cannot recall training, Safety Data Sheets are not readily available, material labels are illegible or missing, materials are stored incorrectly, or there have been incidents, then a basic annual review is not sufficient and more extensive training is required.
We are nearing the end of a very hot summer, but it’s not too late to protect yourself from sun exposure. Canadian workers need to protect themselves from both the heat and solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Canadian sunlight is strong enough to cause health detriments whether you are working outdoors, or relaxing on the beach with friends and family. Sun exposure puts individuals at risk for heat stroke, heat cramps, heat rashes, sunburns, skin damage, skin cancer, cataracts, and other eye conditions. Did you know that 60% of outdoor workers are outside for at least six hours of the day, and are 3.5 times more susceptible to being diagnosed with skin cancer? (1) UV radiation causes roughly 90% of melanoma cases. Although skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, melanoma skin cancer has significantly increased over the past 25 years among men and women (2).
Have you been following proper protocol for enjoying the outdoors and working safely in the sun and heat?
Here are some tips to keep you safe while in the sun: CHECK THE UV DAILY
When the UV Index is 3 (moderate) or higher, you need to be careful to protect your skin
Reduce sun exposure between 11am-3pm when the sun rays are the strongest
Cover your skin as much as possible
Wear a wide-brimmed hat
Wear loose, breathable clothing and UV-protective labeled clothing
Wear UVA and UVB protective sunglasses to help prevent eye damage
Use SPF 30 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection
If you’re in the water, use water-resistant sunscreen
Put sunscreen on your ears, chin, and neck, even if you’re wearing a hat’
Reapply after getting wet or every couple of hours
Employers can help protect their workers by implementing sun safety policies into their health and safety management programs. WHAT CAN WORKPLACES DO TO ENSURE SUN SAFETY AT WORK?
Develop and implement a sun and heat safety workplace policy
Educate workers on sun and heat exposure via training, presentations, resources, and reminders
Schedule work to minimize exposure
Ensure workers are taking frequent water and rest breaks in high heat
Provide sunscreen for employees to use on exposed skin at work
Ensure workers are covered to protect themselves: hat with wide brim, long sleeve shirts and pants, safety glasses with UV protection, sunscreen with SPF30 or higher, and loose breathable clothing
IF A WORKER IS EXPERIENCING ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS, ADMINISTER AID:
If medical care is unavailable, call 911
Remove worker from hot area and give liquids to sip
Remove unnecessary clothing
Cool the worker down with a cold cloth or ice
Be sure one person stays with the worker until medical services arrive
KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAT STROKE (3):
Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
Hot, dry skin
High body temperature
KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION:
Elevated body temperature
Decreased urine output
Next time you’re building a sand castle on the beach or installing an air conditioner make sure you’re covered up, loaded with sunscreen, and have plenty of fluids. Save your skin. Be Safe.
OSG Can Help!
When you’re working in the sun or heat, or enjoying time outdoors with friends and family, be sure to implement sun safety policies. OSG can help you create heat and sun related safety policies. Call 800-815-9980 to speak to a health and safety expert, or visit us online at www.osg.ca
Written by Jennifer Miller, Curriculum Development Coordinator
At OSG, all of our staff are Health and Safety Leaders. This month, we are featuring two outstanding leaders: Natasha Schaafsma-Wright and Bruno Urbani. NATASHA SCHAAFSMA-WRIGHT
Natasha has been working for OSG for 6 years in operations. She started as the face of OSG’s brand and first contact for OSG clients when they came to OSG’s London office. Now, as the Evaluations Coordinator, Natasha organizes and books every single practical evaluation required for all of our clients, all across Canada. Outside of OSG, Natasha’s entrepreneurial spirit has led her to starting and running a highly successful mobile sign business. She is currently working toward earning her M (motorcycle) license.
“Keep your eyes down and watch for spills and other tripping hazards – you may even find money!” -Natasha Schaafsma-Wright
Bruno is one of OSG’s Client Relationship Managers, whose professional goal is to ensure that all client expectations are met. His aim is to ensure that his clients see OSG as their one-stop safety shop. He has been working for OSG for over three years in the customer relationship department, and continues to deliver top-notch customer service. His laid-back demeanor and his knowledge of health and safety legislation make Bruno an asset to the OSG team. Outside of OSG, Bruno is an avid sports fan, who enjoys watching and also participating in almost any sport you can name. He was born and raised in Brazil, coming to Canada at age 11.
“Never make assumptions that another worker knows something just because you do.” -Bruno Urbani
Next time you are in OSG’s London office, say hello to Bruno or Natasha. They are OSG Safety Leaders who embody safety culture in the workplace.