FMCSA Bans Handheld Cell Phone Use While Driving… Employers Liable Up to $11K

no cell phone signOn November 23, 2011, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the finalization of an important new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule prohibiting commercial truck and bus drivers from any handheld mobile phone use while driving.

This is a huge development for the entire trucking industry for three main reasons:

1.    The rule is crystal clear with regard to employer liability, stating that carriers are responsible for the actions of its employees and will generally be held accountable (fines up to $11,000 per incident) for violations that occur when drivers are carrying out company business or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf.

2.    The rule is silent with regard to recommended enforcement methods, choosing instead to clarify that an employer having a written policy in place is not sufficient enforcement, and if a violation occurs, the employer will still be held accountable for the employee’s actions.

3.    Rule violations count against carriers’ BASICS scores under the “Unsafe Driving” category.

For trucking companies, however, the new rule is a complicated and sharp double-edged sword.

On one hand, the rule imposes significant financial penalties (up to $11,000 per incident) upon commercial fleets that turn a blind eye toward the 60% of truckers who admit to using cell phones while on the road.

On the other hand, the rule, like similar state laws, is inherently difficult to enforce as drivers are not inclined to put their phones down just because they are told to.  Indeed, without tools to actively enforce compliance with cell phone use regulations, the FMCSA and the entire trucking industry should temper their expectations as to how many drivers will voluntarily comply.

The bottom line is that this seemingly simple rule is actually quite complex.  However, there is good news for regulators and industry stakeholders: industry leaders such as XATA Turnpike have developed simple and affordable compliance solutions that actively or passively promote safe and legal use of cell phones while driving on the job.

To see a compliance solution in action, contact us for a free demo of FleetSafer Vision.

For further analysis of what this rule means for trucking firms, check out this post by XATA’s Ryan Barnett.

FleetSafer Vision and FleetSafer Mobile are tools designed to give trucking companies a simple and affordable way to promote safe and legal use of cell phones while driving on the job.

Slips, Trips & Falls = Big WC Claims

four icons for slip and fall accidentsHave you ever put much thought into the “slip resistance” rating of the shoe you and your employees wear to work? Here’s some information that may have “slipped” by you!

Slip, trip and fall injuries make up 15 percent of all worker’s compensation claims.
The average slip and fall worker’s compensation claim is nearly $22,000.
Sixty-five percent of lost work days are due to slip and fall accidents.
Twenty-two percent of slip and fall incidents resulted in more than 31 days away from work.
Twenty-four percent of workplace slip and falls can be directly attributed to footwear.
How can I protect my employees from slip and falls?
A great way for an employer to reduce slip and fall accidents is with a company-wide slip resistant shoe program. This program should be a part of an overall safety plan and can be handled by the safety director or loss prevention specialist in the organization. A good slip resistant shoe program can reduce slip and falls by 50 percent or more with little or no cost to the employer.
By mandating employees wear appropriate footwear for their working environment and providing guidance about where and how to purchase slip resistant shoes, businesses can proactively reduce their accident rates and better protect their employees.
How do slip resistant shoes prevent slip and falls?
Slip resistant shoes have a specially made sole that offers increased resistance to sliding or skidding in wet or greasy surface conditions. This sole is made from a softer rubber compound that is designed to provide more traction by gripping the microscopic roughness of the walking surface. Additionally, slip-resistant shoe soles typically feature a grid-like tread pattern that funnels liquid out from under the shoe, preventing hydroplaning on water or grease.
How do I know my employees are wearing the right shoes?
Not all slip resistant shoes perform equally. Make sure that employees are only wearing shoes that have been tested and have a slip resistance rating. Many of the shoes from retail shoe stores claim to be slip resistant, but don’t offer any significant increase in protection for your employees. A quality slip resistant shoe vendor should be able to produce test results to verify the slip resistance of their shoes.
What styles of slip resistant shoes are there?
Nearly any type of work shoe can be made with a slip resistant sole. Depending on your workplace, the shoe styles your employees wear will vary:
1. If you run a restaurant, your kitchen workers might be wearing waterproof clogs, while your servers could be wearing oxfords.
2. A hospital or long-term care facility will be a great setting for comfortable, supportive sneakers.
3. An industrial or manufacturing setting needs something tougher, such a steel toe or comp toe work boot.
4. Consider keeping a stock of various sized overshoes on hand for new hires to wear until they get proper footwear, or for visiting supervisors.

CDPH Offers Food Safety Tips for Holiday Feasts

Contact: Melinda McRae Beer (916) 440-7259

Holiday Food Safety Tips graphicAs the holiday season ramps up, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is reminding Californians about the importance of safe food handling to prevent foodborne illness.

“Thorough cooking, adequate refrigeration, good hand washing and work area hygiene are the key practices to prevent foodborne illness,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman. “Properly prepared and handled foods ensure not only a safe holiday meal, but a safe meal every day.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths annually in the United States are related to foodborne diseases.

Bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 are responsible for many foodborne illnesses, caused by eating contaminated foods. Contamination usually occurs as a result of poor food handling practices at the farms, factories, restaurants or homes.

Symptoms of foodborne disease include fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea which may be bloody. Most infected people recover from foodborne illnesses within a week. Some, however, may develop complications that require hospitalization. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with a weakened immune system are at highest risk for potentially life-threatening complications.

Foodborne diseases can be prevented by simple safety steps in the kitchen. Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after food preparation, and especially after handling raw foods. Clean all work surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water after each use. Be sure to cook foods thoroughly and to refrigerate adequately between meals. Visit this page for more food safety tips, including proper cooking temperatures.

Insurance Carrot and Stick Offered by Employer

graph of Workers_Health_Insurance_Coverage_by_Industry_2010(Reuters) – Like a lot of companies, Veridian Credit Union wants its employees to be healthier. In January, the Waterloo, Iowa-company rolled out a wellness program and voluntary screenings.

It also gave workers a mandate – quit smoking, curb obesity, or you’ll be paying higher healthcare costs in 2013. It doesn’t yet know by how much, but one thing’s for certain – the unhealthy will pay more.

The credit union, which has more than 500 employees, is not alone.

In recent years, a growing number of companies have been encouraging workers to voluntarily improve their health to control escalating insurance costs. And while workers mostly like to see an employer offer smoking cessation classes and weight loss programs, too few are signing up or showing signs of improvement.

So now more employers are trying a different strategy – they’re replacing the carrot with a stick and raising costs for workers who can’t seem to lower their cholesterol or tackle obesity. They’re also coming down hard on smokers. For example, discount store giant Wal-Mart (WMT.N) says that starting in 2012 it will charge tobacco users higher premiums but also offer free smoking cessation programs.

Tobacco users consume about 25 percent more healthcare services than non-tobacco users, says Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, which insures more than 1 million people, including family members. “The decisions aren’t easy, but we need to balance costs and provide quality coverage.”

For decades, workers – especially with large employers – have taken many health benefits for granted and until the past few years hardly noticed the price increases.

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