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Can OSHA Issue Citations for Texting and Driving?

by Joe Geng on March 31, 2017

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As much as we claim to hate them, our phones are a deeply ingrained part of our modern culture. The answers to every question from “best local pizza place” to “is hippo milk actually pink?” is held in the palm of our hands. Chances are you’re reading this blog on your phone.
holding a cellphone and drinking a coffee
But did you know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can issue citations for texting and driving? Believe it or not they can.

The reason for it? There are over 330,000 texting and driving accidents annually in the US and some studies claim that that number is under reported. So in 2009, former President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order aimed at 3 million government employees to establish “federal leadership.”

After the order was signed, the Department of Labor, through OSHA partnered with the Department of Transportation to spearhead the initiative. While the order only applies to federal workers, OSHA expanded this to the private sector as well.


OSHA Rules on Cell Phones:

OSHA’s focus is on employers who create work policies and practices that encourage or require workers to text and drive. Cell phone use while driving is one of the riskiest forms of distracted driving and texting and driving greatly increases the risk of injury or death.  According to the National Safety Council, it increases your chance of crashing by four times, regardless of whether it’s a handheld or hands-free device.


Steps OSHA is Taking:

To help get the message out about distracted driving and texting and driving in particular, OSHA’s multi-pronged approach includes:

  • Education campaigns for employers to encourage workers to avoid distracted driving
  • Special attention paid to get the message across to younger workers
  • Following up on credible complaints when an employer requires texting and driving


OSHA Distracted Driving Consequences:

OSHA is permitted to visit a job site based on worker complaints that an employer requires texting and driving. OSHA can also visit if an employer makes texting and driving a practical necessity for the job. In these situations, a financial penalty can be issued. Depending on the severity of the citation, OSHA fines can be over $124,000 under updated 2016 guidelines.
texting and driving


What Employers Need to Do:

Employers should take a clear stance by implementing corporate policy against distracted driving. Ensure that employees understand this by issuing company-wide communications. Be sure to document the actions that have been taken to discourage and ban work-related texting and driving.

When implementing new policies, make sure that current policies don’t directly or indirectly encourage distracted driving. These actions and any changes made to the current policy should also be documented and communicated to employees.

Unlike most of the infractions that rank on OSHA’s top ten citations, texting and driving isn’t isolated to work and should be avoided at all costs. More information on the dangers can be found in this OSHA distracted driving brochure.

Think your workers are already safe enough? Click below to take our workplace safety survey to see how your company stacks up.

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