The following suggestions can help you avoid costly auto accidents among your employees who drive for work.
Driving—something that most adults do every day—is one of the most dangerous tasks you can assign a worker. Consider the following facts:
Roadway accidents accounted for nearly two out of five (23.9 percent) of all fatal work injuries in 2012. Off-road vehicle accidents, such as a tractor overturn on a farm field, accounted for another 230, or 12 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that 4.7 out of 10,000 full-time workers in private industry suffered a nonfatal injury requiring days away from work due to a transportation incident in 2012.
Motor vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion each year in medical care, legal expenses, property damage and lost productivity.
The average employee auto crash costs an employer $16,500, says OSHA.
On-the-job crashes that result in injury cost employers an average of $74,000. Costs can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved.
If an individual is injured in a non-occupational accident, a third party’s insurance might pay the claim, but only if that party were at fault. In a work-related accident, the employer’s workers’ compensation must pay for any injuries and lost time…even if the worker is at fault in the accident.
What You Can Do to Improve Driver Safety
The best driver safety programs start at time of hire. Hiring safe, conscientious drivers can help employers avoid many work-related auto accidents. To start:
- Define the jobs that involve driving. If a job requires driving, obtain copies of applicants’ motor vehicle records (MVRs) from the state department of motor vehicles before making a job offer. Be sure to obtain applicants’ written permission before doing this to avoid violating any privacy regulations. Use the MVRs to screen out any applicants whose records indicate unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding tickets, at-fault accidents and multiple moving violations.
Ensure that any worker assigned to drive on the job has a valid driver’s license. The license should be appropriate for the type of vehicle to be driven.
- Request MVRs on a regular basis—at least once a year—for all employees whose jobs involve driving or who are given company cars. If an employee needs to drive infrequently on business—for example, on a business trip—you might save time by requesting the employee to provide a copy of his or her own motor vehicle record abstract.
- Develop a company driving policy. Your policy should require seat belt use for the driver and all occupants, prohibit driving while intoxicated (including while under the influence of legally prescribed drugs that can impair reflexes, judgment or vision), and require safe use of cell phones and other mobile devices while driving. Many companies (and some states) allow only hands-free devices or ban the use of mobile devices altogether while the vehicle is moving.
- Most accidents involve unsafe driving behavior. Let employees know what disciplinary actions the company will take for violations. This could include a point system, where drivers receive points for various moving violations, along with listing offenses that will result in termination of driving privileges or employment, such as DUIs, reckless driving charges or vehicular manslaughter.
- Maintain complete and accurate records of workers’ driving performance. In addition to checking driver’s licenses for prospective employees, periodically recheck licensing status of current employees.
To minimize paperwork, have employees sign a consent form at time of hire, authorizing the company to review their MVRs on an annual or as-needed basis, and indicating that they have read and agree to abide by the company’s driving policy. Incorporate training on fatigue management and the dangers of distracted driving into safety programs. Ensure that workers receive the training necessary to operate specialized motor vehicles. Consider providing an emergency kit containing a flashlight, extra batteries, flares, a blanket, and bottled water.
The “Coming and Going Rule”
For an auto accident claim to be compensable, the worker must prove that the injury occurred while working. State laws except coverage for injuries employees receive while commuting to and from work, considering that the employee’s personal time. However, exceptions exist to this “coming and going rule” where your workers’ compensation would apply. Generally, these exceptions are for:
- Employees who have no office or other fixed place of work, such as a traveling salesperson or traveling nurse, who report from home to their clients’ place of business;
- Employees whose employment contract includes transportation to and from work;
- Employees who are traveling away from home for an extended time; workers’ compensation may cover even injuries they receive while off duty;
- Employees who are doing an errand on behalf of the employer during their commute.
Even outside the confines of the coming and going exception, some gray areas of coverage exist. For example, some employees have been awarded workers’ compensation benefits after punching out if they are injured while still on the employer’s premises.
If you’re uncertain whether an employee’s injury falls under your workers’ compensation policy, please contact us for advice. We can also provide more suggestions on improving worker safety.