Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ve heard about the upcoming ban on using cell phones and other mobile devices while driving on October 26, 2009. I’m going to assume you know about the new law and all the fines you can get hit with, and instead focus on 5 actions employers should take to prepare for this new legislation. These action steps can help minimize your potential liability and protect the health and safety of your workforce.
- Develop and Implement a Cell Phone/PDA Use Policy. Employers should take steps to develop and implement a policy that sets out limitations on their employees’ use of cell phone and BlackBerry® devices and is consistent with Ontario’s new legal standards. At a minimum, the policy should prohibit the use of hand-held devices while driving at all times unless the device is used in “hands-free” mode or the vehicle is off the road and not in motion at the time of the call.
- Educate Employees About Their Legal Obligations. Employers should develop a communications and mandatory training strategy to ensure employees are fully aware of company policy governing cell phone use and their new obligations under the Highway Traffic Act. Employees should be required to sign a form acknowledging that they have been informed about the policy changes, and the form should be kept in each employee’s file.
- Review Job Duties and Responsibilities. Employers should consider whether any of their employees are operationally required or expected to be responsive to calls and e-mails while in transit. These employees should be provided with clear guidance for placing and receiving calls and e-mails while driving, and should be protected from reprisals for failing to answer calls or e-mails while in transit.
- Consistently Enforce Disciplinary Measures. Employers should consistently enforce policies governing cell phone use by issuing warnings and, where appropriate, disciplinary measures commensurate with the severity of the infraction.
- Provide Hands-Free Devices. Where appropriate and feasible, employers may consider issuing hands-free devices to employees, particularly those employees who are required to use cell phones and other devices frequently throughout the workday.
By taking proactive steps to address Ontario’s new law governing cell phone use while driving, employers can reduce their potential liability, help promote a culture of worker safety, and ensure compliance with the law.