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November 12, 2010
Distracted Driving: A Message Worth Repeating

We’ve reported in recent months on behind-the-wheel (or behind-the-controls) distractions. Personnel in railroad, aviation, and trucking have all been implicated in incidents that reveal the tragic consequences of inattention.

Whether you’re in the transportation industry, service, construction, or manufacturing, you’ve probably figured out that reducing cell phone use among your employees can substantially reduce distraction.

The National Safety Council has produced a cell phone policy kit that helps move employees beyond understanding the rules to supporting and accepting them.

Consider these tips for building employee support for your cell phone policy:

  • No surprises. Don’t spring a new policy on employees, as this could lead to a negative response and a lack of respect for the rules.
  • Seek opinions. Before implementing the policy hold open meetings with employees to discuss the need for a policy. Request feedback—anonymously, if that helps.
  • Get labor on board. In a unionized workplace the union steward is a key stakeholder. Hold an advance meeting with labor representatives to get their understanding and support.
  • Discuss potential barriers. For some employees, your policy may mean a change in longstanding habits. That can be stressful. Give employees the opportunity to discuss obstacles and doubts. Ask them to come up with solutions.
  • Lead from the top. Employees need to see and hear that leadership supports the policy. If your policy and program lack leadership commitment, you may wish to consider delaying the rollout until that support is solid.
  • Share ideas about productivity. Employees may be concerned about job productivity if access to their cell phones changes. Be clear that safety is your priority, and challenge employees to identify strategies for maintaining productivity despite new phone rules.
  • Tell stories. Testimonials about the results of distracted driving can communicate powerfully. Because many people believe incorrectly that hands-free phones are safer, you may wish to share some stories about hands-free crashes.
  • Involve employees. Get ideas from those who will be affected about how to monitor compliance and the consequences of noncompliance.
  • Share success. Once the policy is in place, share positive results with employees.

For more information, see the federal government website www.distraction.gov or consider using one of BLR’s training sessions on cell phone use.

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