Five Ways to Reduce Accidents among Your Driving Employees

We’ve often discussed the scourge of distracted driving in America, brought on in large part due to the use of smartphones and leading to a significant spike in vehicle accidents, injuries and deaths. That in turn has led to a jump in both commercial and personal auto insurance pricing.

The risk for businesses is even greater as a careless driving employee can result in a substantial liability claim, particularly if a third party is injured. If one of your drivers is found to have been engaged in distracted driving, any judgment or settlement for a personal injury could easily cost more than $1 million.

While you can hold meetings about the dangers of distracted driving and what your driving employees can do to reduce the chances of crashing, in the end it comes down to trusting that they will do the right thing.

So what can you do? We suggest a holistic approach to the issue.

1.   Understand distracted driving

Just how bad is the distracted driving problem? In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, an estimated 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads.

But smartphones are not the only source of distraction. Road safety experts say there are three types of distraction for drivers:

  • Manual – This can include looking around for a lost object in the car, reaching under the seat or behind to the back seat.
  • Cognitive – This can include a driver who is lost in thought and not paying full attention to driving.
  • Visual – Anything that makes a driver takes their eyes off the road, like looking at the GPS or searching for a song on an iPod.

 

Some distractions actually are a combination of two or all the above, like texting or posting stuff on Facebook.

All of your training for your driving employees must emphasize the need to address all types of distracted driving, and should include scenarios to help them make proper decisions when behind the wheel.

2.  Hire good drivers

When hiring personnel who drive, consider what their primary responsibility is. For example, if you own a plumbing operation, your drivers are not necessarily going to be professional drivers, since their primary duty is fixing plumbing issues.

But if you are hiring any workers who will be driving as part of their job, even if it’s not their primary responsibility, you should still make sure they are good drivers by checking their driving records.

Hiring safe drivers is one of the best ways for you to ensure you are putting safe drivers behind the wheel. After all, past driving behavior is the best indication of future performance.

If you think any prospect will be driving as part of their job, you should pull their DMV records. Look for anything serious like DUIs or frequent citations for moving violations. You should decide what your level of tolerance is for driving histories.

In addition, check their resumes to see whether they were driving as part of any of their prior jobs, and if they have experience driving the same type of vehicle they would be driving for you.

Also ask about any medications the applicant may be taking, as some can affect their driving.

Finally, consider requiring candidates that would be driving to take a road test as part of the recruitment process.

3.  Coach current employees to be safe drivers

You should hold regular training for all of your current employees that may drive as part of their job, even if they are only running to the office supply store or on an occasional errand.

You should attack this in a three-pronged approach:

  • Pull their DMV driving records annually.
  • Subject them to road tests where they are graded on their safe driving.
  • Hold an annual meeting to go over safe driving policies; reinforce the dangers of distracted driving and stress the need to always focus on the task at hand.

 

You should also have safe driving policies in writing that are enforceable. Your policies should list all the behaviors your workers are prohibited from engaging in while driving.

Some rules you can include:

  • Never answer the phone while driving, even if you have a hands-free device.
  • Bar programming a GPS while on the move and require that they pull over when safe to do so.
  • Never hold your smartphone in your hand while driving.

 

Your policy should also specify the consequences and any disciplinary action for breaking the rules.

You should maintain records of these policies. This is of utmost importance if one of your employees is in an accident and accused of negligence. Your policy and proof of training can protect your organization.

4.  Take advantage of technology

Many companies are installing GPS tracking devices in their vehicles so they can receive real-time information about a vehicle’s location and rate of speed. This gives you valuable insight into any dangerous habits your drivers may be engaging in.

You can also install technologies that will block cell phone signals while the vehicle is moving.

5.  Have procedures for dealing with accidents

Despite your best efforts, your driving employees may still have accidents. They should be trained in the procedures they should follow after an accident.

Some companies include accident kits in their vehicles. They are typically a small bag or box that’s kept in the glove compartment.

The kit should explain what they should do, including:

  • Taking photos from all angles after an accident.
  • Completing a form on which to record details of the accident, including where it took place, how it occurred, the damage to third parties, the other driver’s insurance information, road conditions, and more. Require your drivers to take down all the details at the scene of the accident.
  • Calling the police in the event of an accident.

Employees should not discuss who was at fault with the police, but they can work with them to document the accident. Plus, a police officer can provide a calm, outside perspective on a stressful situation.

 

 

How to Keep the Flu from Spreading Among Your Workforce

This year promises to be one of the worst flu seasons in the past decade, and that means you may end up having a number of employees who are off sick at the same time.
If the flu takes hold among your employees, it can quickly spread and force even more people than usual to take time off to get better. While it’s impossible to stop the flu from spreading in society, as an employer you can prepare for absences and also take steps to keep the virus from taking hold in your workplace.

Here’s what you can do to reduce the flu’s penetration among your workforce.

Urge your staff to get a flu shot

It’s not too late for people to get vaccinated. After a flu shot, it takes about two weeks for your body to develop antibodies. The winter is the best time to get the shot for the most long-lasting effectiveness.

No flu vaccine is 100% effective, so a flu shot is not a guarantee that your worker will not get sick. For example, the vaccine for the 2016-2017 flu season was only 48% effective.

Urge employees to stay home if sick

The flu is often accompanied by a fever or nausea. Advise your workers to stay at home if they are feeling these symptoms because if they come to work with the early stages of influenza, they are most susceptible to spreading it. In fact, the flu virus remains contagious for seven days.

Tell them that while they feel they may be able to put in a full workday, not only is their work quality likely to suffer, but they can exacerbate their symptoms and put other staff at risk. Emphasize that their job won’t be at stake if they call in sick with the flu.

Have replacement personnel for key positions

We’re not talking about keeping someone on stand-by that doesn’t work at your organization. But for critical posts, it makes good business and risk management sense if you have more than one person trained to perform critical job functions at your facility.

If you don’t have someone trained for their job, you risk having an operational interruption, throwing your production schedule off track.

Consider telecommuting

For workers with mild flu symptoms who are staying at home for the good of their co-workers, consider a telecommuting arrangement. If they are recuperating, they can hold video meetings on Skype and, if you have a VPN set up, they can access your database and their work, if they have the kind of job that can be done remotely.

Stock up on hand sanitizer

People who have just contracted the flu, but may not know it yet, can spread the virus through sneezes and touching surfaces that others may touch (think doorknobs). One of the keys to avoiding the flu is to keep your hands clean.

Place bottles of hand sanitzier or santizing wipes handy in various places at your facility. Make sure if you provide wipes that employees don’t need to open a lid to get at them (that’s just one more point of contact for the flu virus to populate and wait for the next victim).

Germ-killing wipes can also be used on non-porous surfaces, such as door handles and workbenches.

Order antiviral facemasks

Yes, we’ve all seen the photos of people in Asia wearing facemasks in public to either avoid spreading their germs or picking up a virus. But while most facemasks are only really good in not spreading the disease of the wearer, there are a few antiviral facemasks on the market that actually protect the wearer.

Curad’s Antiviral Facemask, for example, “inactivates 99.99% of tested strains of influenza viruses on five minutes contact with the surface of the facemask in laboratory (in-vitro) tests against … seasonal, pandemic, avian, swine, and equine influenza viruses.”

Humidify your air

The flu virus thrives in cold and dry environments and you can thwart it by installing a humidifier in your workplace. This is war, so any weapons you have to fight the spread of flu among your workers is worthwhile.

Businesses Pay Record Amounts for Lawsuits over Employee Treatment

Employers are paying out more for legal settlements and judgments for cases brought by employees over how they are being treated.

According to the employment law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, settlements for the 10 biggest class-action suits brought by employees grew an astounding 55% to $2.72 billion in 2017 from $1.75 billion the year prior.

The trend in employee class actions reflects a similar trend of individual actions, which should be a wake-up call for employers to review their human resources policies and practices.

These cases include claims for:

  • Wage-and-hour violations (such as insufficient pay, failure to pay overtime, etc.)
  • Employee bias (such as discrimination against protected classes)
  • Underfunded pension plans
  • Harassment
  • Independent contractor vs. employee disagreements

It’s unlikely that the aggregate record settlement amount in 2017 – the highest Seyfarth Shaw has recorded since it started keeping track in 2003 – may constitute a trend as many of the actions were government enforcement lawsuits against employers brought by the Obama administration. The business-friendly Trump administration delivers on promises of less government intervention and reduced federal enforcement efforts.

But the law firm predicted that 2018 could be still be significant in light of the #MeToo movement after numerous allegations of sexual harassment have sunk the careers of high-profile businessmen, actors and politicians. Lawyers expect more rank-and-file workers, emboldened by the news reports, to file lawsuits against their employers alleging sexual harassment by superiors.

Also, in a bit of pushback against the Trump administration’s policies, a number of state attorneys general have been taking a more aggressive stance on workplace issues and they could pick up part of the slack.

The fallout

The stakes are high for employers. Employee-initiated lawsuits can drag on for years and can be expensive even if the employer wins the case.

Legal fees can easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and sympathetic juries can punish a company with large awards. Combined, legal fees and awards or settlements can sink a small business by crimping its cash flow and causing irreparable damage.

As an employer, you should review your policies on harassment and discrimination, your pay practices and how you are classifying employees and independent contractors.

You should consider:

  • Whether you have a strong anti-harassment and discrimination policy in place, and if you have a solid reporting mechanism for workers who feel they have been harassed or discriminated against. The process should be confidential and you should take all complaints seriously and investigate them.  Whatever you do, don’t retaliate against an employee who has filed a complaint, as that could lead to a retaliation lawsuit being filed against your business.
  • Reviewing your pay policies to make sure that you are accurately accounting for overtime pay, holiday pay and that you are not paying one class of worker more than another for the same work if they have similar experience and position.
  • Reviewing how you are classifying independent contractors to make sure you are not running afoul of the law. The IRS is still taking a serious view of misclassification, and you also run the risk of being sued by someone who feels they should be classified and paid as an employee if you are classifying them as an independent contractor.
  • Taking out an employment practices liability insurance policy. These policies cover legal fees associated with the above actions, investigation costs, and judgments and settlements. An EPLI policy could be your company’s lifeline for protecting your assets should your firm be sued.