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Employees chatting on cellphones while behind the wheel on the job can take a significant toll on businesses, according to a new report.
A study by the National Safety Council (NSC) shows employers could be held liable for millions of dollars in damages should an on-the-job employee get into a car accident while distracted on a cellphone.
The report, "Employer Liability and the Case for Comprehensive Cellphone Policies," calls for employers to implement a policy prohibiting all employees from using cellphones, including hands-free devices, while driving.
"Business leaders owe it to their employees to put safety first – especially when employees are on the roads,” said Janet Froetscher, NSC president and CEO. "Employers should know a policy that prohibits hand-held and hands-free cellphone use by all employees while driving is not only a best safety practice but also contributes to the bottom line."
An employer can be held legally accountable for negligent employee actions if they were acting within the scope of their employment at the time of a crash, according to the study.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimate on-the-job accidents cost employers more than $24,500 per property damage crash. The cost rises to $150,000 per injury and to as much as $3.6 million per fatality.
While businesses may be concerned that outlawing on-the-road mobile phone use could affect productivity, the study suggests that’s not been the case for most employers that have passed total-ban cellphone policies.
Some, in fact, reported an improvement in productivity after a ban was implemented.
To assist companies with implementing cellphone policies, NSC created a free Cellphone Policy Kit, which can be downloaded at cellphonekit.nsc.org.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.