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In OSHA’s April 15, 2014, issue of “Quick Takes,” its bi-monthly newsletter, the agency commented on the US Department of Transportation’s national campaign to stop texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving. OSHA took the opportunity to remind employers of its own distracted driving initiative and employer’s obligations, under the “General Duty Clause,” to protect their employees from recognized workplace hazards, such as distracted driving. Because OSHA views distracted driving as a recognized workplace hazard, if an employee is injured while engaged in work-related driving and texting (or emailing), the employer could receive citations from OSHA.

Texting (as well as emailing) while driving is considered violative of the General Duty Clause if the employer does one or more of the following:

  1. Requires workers text while driving;
  2. Creates incentives that encourage or condone texting and driving; and/or
  3. Structures work so that texting is a practical necessity.

OSHA requires a clear, unequivocal, and enforced policy against texting while driving. Such a policy should include the following elements:

  1. A prohibition on texting while driving;
  2. Establishment of work procedures and rules that do not make it necessary for employees to text and drive in order to complete their work;
  3. Establishment of clear procedures, times, and places for the safe use of texting and other technology for communication;
  4. Incorporate safe communication practices into worker orientation practices and training; and
  5. Eliminate incentives that encourage workers to text while driving.

OSHA claims that it is prepared to act quickly if it receives a complaint that an employer requires texting while driving and, when necessary, will issue citations and penalties.