Safety and OSHA News

80% mistakenly believe this is a safe work practice

Bust any safety myths lately? New findings from a National Safety Council (NSC) poll point toward one misconception many of your workers probably have: 

The NSC says 80% of drivers incorrectly believe hands-free cell phones are safer to use when driving than hand-held ones.

Some other results from the NSC poll:

  • Of those who admitted using hands-free devices while driving, 70% said they do so for safety reasons.
  • 53% of respondents believe hands-free devices must be safe to use if they are built into cars and trucks.

NSC points to more than 30 studies that show hands-free devices are no safer than hand-held ones because the brain is distracted by the phone conversation either way.

“The problem is the brain does not truly multi-task,” said David Teater, senior director of Transportation Initiatives at the NSC. “Just like you can’t read a book and talk on the phone, you can’t safely operate a vehicle and talk on the phone.”

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The NSC’s theme this year is “Hands-free is not risk-free.”

The safety organization is urging employers to ban its employees from using cell phones — hand-held and hands-free — while driving for company business.

How one company did it

Owens-Corning has enacted such a ban.

Among the keys to doing that: Real support from the very top of the organization.

Before enacting the ban for the entire company, its CEO went 90 days without using a cell phone while driving.

When it came time to announce the policy, the CEO told his story about how he had just successfully refrained from using a phone while driving, and that it didn’t affect his productivity.

Owens-Corning also recruited some champions for the new policy, including its top sales leaders. These champions helped implement the program among all of the company’s salespeople.

The NSC has materials available to help companies implement their own cell phone policies.

Has your company implemented a cell phone while driving ban? Does it include hands-free calls? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. RigaTony says:

    So whats next, banning conversations with passengers? If your distracted by a simple conversation while driving maybe you should take the buss.

  2. jburzynski says:

    I agree that hands-free devices are not “safe” to use while driving, but saying they are no safer than using a hand-held device doesn’t make sense to me. Both are cognitive distractions, but a hand held device also requires you to take your eyes off of the road and your hands off of the steering wheel to make or answer calls. In my opinion, a hands-free device is a safer alternative to a hand-held device but is by no means a risk-free endeavor.

  3. I have worked for numerous companies that take different approaches. When i worked for a mining company, no cell phone use while driving was allowed. Other companies I’ve worked for only allowed hands-free devices for supervision, but equipment operators were prohibited from even having their phones on them. The last company I worked for did a study of previous vehicle accidents that occured, and found teh hands free devices were better for use, but found more vehicle accidents actually occured from supervision, with company trucks, eating while driving, so they prohibited eating anything while driving, and this could get you fired.

  4. Are people really this stupid? If you really have the inability to multitask (according to their research) then no one should be allowed to even converse with someone else while in a vehicle. How about banning any audio devices as well? Why not, they force us to “Multi-Task”? Let’s be real folks, if you cant talk on a hands free device because it is too distracting then maybe you shouldn’t drive a 4000 lb killing machine alongside other drivers. When will people be responsible for their own actions and stop blaming others for a lack of self control?

  5. To RigaTony, Tony, and jburzynski,
    Have any of you read any of the numerous studies (BMJ, etc.) on the subject? Odds ratio of 4.1 for all cell phone use within 10 minutes increasing the likelihood of an automobile accident requiring a hospital visit. When split by use, the odds ratios were 3.8 for hands free and 4.9 for hand held.
    “Multi-tasking” is a myth due to the fact that the brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. This has nothing to do with intelligence, Tony, it has to do with the physiology of the brain.. A person may be able to switch between tasks quickly, but not when you are distracted by a phone call while driving a vehicle, which takes more concentration than you would think. Just because you are a good driver when you are not on a phone, does not give you the ability to talk on the phone and also be a good driver. Has nothing to do with where the phone or your hands are, it has to do with the processing of information, the cognitiive distractions (you are correct in this regard, jburzynski), and the limitations of the brain. The issue of passenger conversation is also the subject of several studies. The passenger assists the driver when there are driving miscues that a person on a cell phone cannot.
    I have been personally touched by this subject, with three of my friends injured and hospitalized in two different accidents, one pretty severely. One involved someone in the other car talking on a cell phone (mode unknown) and crossing the centerline, and one involved another friend (driver) talking (hands free) in a car that rolled over. He walked away from the accident, but the back seat passengers were not so “lucky”. No, they had not been drinking. This issue is one of the most misunderstood issues and the lawmakers are not doing any of us any favors by splitting the two uses in the laws they promulgate. I am a bulldog in my company about this, particularly this month, as it is NSCs “Distracted Driving Awareness Month”. Our policy allows hands free, but not hand held and that makes no sense, given the data that is available. The problem is that no one wishes to look up the info or read it, as the incorrect perception is that “productivity will go down” or “how can I do my job without talking while driving”. Try doing it from a hospital bed, while you are in a body cast with a broken arm and gorped out on pain meds. Or worse.
    I understand that studies do have limitations, but following are two studies and an LA Times article about the subject. The more we can educate everyone about this subject, the safer our roadways will be for all of us and our families.
    – BMJ 2005;331:428
    – Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 48th Annual meeting
    LA Times, June 30, 2008

  6. Apologies, posted before I could finish the citations.
    – BMJ 2005;331:428
    – Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 48th Annual Meeting – 2004, “Passengers and Cell-Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving”
    – LA Times, June 30, 2008, “Hands-free cellphone use while driving won’t make the roads safer, studies show. Why? Brain overload.” by LA Times Staff Writer Melissa Healy

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