OSHA says stop texting behind the wheel

Friday - 10/15/2010, 10:41am EDT

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The leading cause of worker fatalities is motor vehicle crashes. This is such a big problem that the Departments of Labor and Transportation are working together on a solution to one of the biggest causes of car crashes - distracted driving.

Since a car, truck, or bus can be workplace, OSHA trying to protect drivers.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, told Federal News Radio his agency has seen more and more "workers killed injured maimed in automobile crashes where texting played a role."

Under a new "distracted driving" rule, it's a violation of OSHA law to require an employee to text while they're driving.

For now, said Michaels, they're focusing only on texting. OSHA isn't at the point yet to issue violations for talking on the phone.

The whole federal government is moving together. President Obama began by issuing the executive order banning federal employees from texting, and we're following that. I think we're going to do more research and look at this larger question. We understand this is a major cultural change. Just to say you can't speak on the phone at all, from an OSHA point of view, is a big stretch. On the other hand, many states...have laws that you can't speak on the phone unless you have a hands-free device.

OSHA is launching a multi-pronged initiative to get the word out, but most importantly, said Michaels, is hearing back from drivers. "Tell us. If there's a policy or a procedure that's making you text while you drive, OSHA wants to know." Call 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) "and we'd like to know about this and we will investigate and we'll issue citations against employers."