Cell Phone Usage Policies are Critical
By Universal Underwriters Group's Loss Prevention Department

Along with eating, applying make-up, inserting a CD, changing radio stations, shaving, reading, etc., cell phones can distract drivers. As an employer, you should be concerned about whether your employees are using cell phones while driving for two reasons.

First and foremost, the safety of your employees and the public is paramount. Second, there is a third-party liability issue. If your employee is using a cell phone to discuss business while driving and he or she causes an accident, you could be held liable.

Under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to implement a policy for the safe use of cell phones.

Do you have such a policy in place? If not, work with qualified legal counsel to develop a policy that meets your local laws. The following is a sample cellular phone policy. It applies to all cell phones, company provided or privately owned, and their use in company vehicles.

Sample Cell Phone Policy

Every effort should be made to avoid the need to use a cellular phone while operating a company vehicle. Plan, as much as possible, your need to initiate phone calls in order to avoid doing so while driving.

Hand-held cellular or mobile phones may not be used while operating a company car. When you receive a call on a hand-held cell phone, greet the caller and ask him or her to hold momentarily while you proceed to safely and legally park your vehicle, and then continue the conversation. If you are in traffic where moving to a legal parking area will take more than a few seconds, ask the caller to call again in 10 or 15 minutes so you can provide your undivided attention to the conversation.

The exception to this is that "hands-free" cellular phones may be used by employees driving company cars when calls must be made for business or emergency purposes and then only if such operation, in the employee's opinion, can be done safely. Traffic and weather conditions, among others, should be considered. "Voice-activated" dialing is preferred and should be used if available. Calls should be kept to the minimum number and duration possible.

Make Safety the Top Priority

Protect your employees, the public and your business - talk with your legal counsel today about implementing a cell phone usage policy.

Gerry Cecil is the National Account Executive for the Special Account Services division of Universal Underwriters Group. For more information about how Universal Underwriters Group, Special Account Services can help your automotive recycling business needs call 800-840-8842, ext. 4845, visit www.uuic.com/specaccts/ara.asp or e-mail: uuic.specaccts@us.zurich.com.

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