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October 3, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Texting / Cell Phones While Driving Invites Tragedy

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:20 am

You probably read about the tragic crash last month of a commuter train and a freight train in California, an accident that left 25 people dead and more than 130 persons injured.  Although the investigation into the collision continues, news reports indicate that one of the possible causes of it was that the commuter train engineer was sending text messages on his cell phone, perhaps instead of paying attention to operating the train.  This event should be a not-so-subtle reminder to employers of the hazards of allowing employees to text or talk on cell phones while driving or operating equipment.

If an employee must drive or operate equipment as part of his/her job and the employer encourages or allows the employee to engage in distracting behavior (cell phone use, texting, operation of a laptop computer, etc.) at the same time, the employer may be held liable for any accidents that occur possibly due to the distraction.  To try to reduce the risk of liability, employers should address these issues in policies, train employees about the same and enforce the rules.

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