This blog was written by Raul Ontiveros, Workers’ Compensation Claims Director at Helpside.

From 2011 to 2016, the frequency of workers’ compensation claims that involved employees who were driving were on the rise. Increased claims mean increased cost for employers. Remember, workers’ compensation claims affect your experience modification factor and therefore your workers’ compensation insurance rates for three years.

What does the data tell us?
The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) conducted a study on motor vehicle accident frequency and compared to all other types of workers’ compensation claims. The study found:

  • The frequency of motor vehicle accident workers’ compensation claims increased from 2011-2016 while all other types of claims decreased.
  • More than 40% of workers’ compensation fatality claims involved a motor vehicle accident.
  • Motor vehicle work comp claims cost 80%-100% more than the average claim due to the severity of the claim.
  • The worker classifications that were most often accidents included truckers, taxi drivers, and salespersons.

What are some of the factors behind the increase in workers’ compensation motor vehicle accidents?
According to the National Safety Council, at least of 27% of motor vehicle accidents involved drivers talking or texting on cell phones. And this reported percentage is likely lower than reality, since it is believed that accidents caused by cell phone distractions are under reported. With workplace motor vehicle accidents on the rise and a cell phone distraction often being a contributing factor, it is important for employers to take a proactive stance on cell phone use by driving employees.

How can employers reduce or eliminate the risks of their employee’s usage of cell phones while driving?
First, employers should create a cell phone policy and communicate it to employees. The policy should prohibit employees from using their cell phones while driving.  Even if your state does not restrict cell phone use by drivers, it is possible that if your employee causes an accident while on a cell phone and working, your company could be held liable for damages.

If you don’t want to prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, we recommend you at least require the use of hands-free technology to talk on the phone and prohibit texting.  Please note that several states require the use of hands-free technology and do not allow any hand-held use of cell phones while driving.

Second, make sure employees understand the importance of the policy. Share the policy with any new employees upon hire and also remind existing employees of the policy often.

Finally, make sure company leaders are modeling good behavior and following the policy. Being the owner of the company does not exempt you from following company policies, especially those related to safety.

The main goal of any safety program is to get employees home safe every day when work is finished.  Minimizing driving distractions through a company wide cell phone policy, and enforcing that policy creates a safer driving environment and is a step in the right direction.