In January, Cargill instituted a policy banning employee use of handheld and hands-free cellphones while driving. The measure restricts about 150,000 workers worldwide from talking or texting on devices in any moving vehicle the Wayzata, MN-based company owns, leases or rents – and forbids work-related calls while operating personal vehicles.
Following the lead of numerous employers that have enacted workplace cellphone use policies in recent years. Cargill leadership expects the ban to steadily provide marked improvements to worker safety.
“It’s very difficult to identify and quantify, but we know that we are no different statistically than the rest of the population, and we know that we needed to do something,” said Al Johnson, vice president of environmental, health and safety for Cargill, an agricultural, food and industrial company.
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that distracted driving contributes to about nine deaths and more than 1,000 injuries on U.S. roadways each day. And OSHA and the National Safety Council cite motor vehicle-related crashes as the No. 1 cause of on-the-job death, with distraction among the leading factors.
Cellphone-distracted driving takes a motorist’s eyes, hands and mind away from the road and wheel, which increases potential dangers to the driver, passengers, other motorists and pedestrians.
“Word is spreading,” said Joseph McKillips, executive director of the Vienna, VA-based Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. “These companies, they’re seeing other companies take these cellphone policies on, and it gives them confidence that they can do the same.”
‘The elephant in the room’
A ban on handheld and hands-free cellphone use represents an evolution from Cargill’s previous safe driving policy, implemented in 2010. Under that policy, drivers had the option to use hands-free devices.
Karen Spring, road transportation safety manager for Shell Oil Co., frequently hears arguments equating hands-free use to driving with a passenger. She offers a rebuttal: “A passenger in a vehicle can react to what’s on the road in front of them. So, if they’re talking to the driver and distracting the driver, they can inform them of that hazard. Whereas if you’re talking on the phone, it’s only the driver who can see the hazard.”
Road transportation safety figures prominently in an organization responsible for delivering fuel to customers and equipment to projects, as well as promoting safe practices for employee and contractor travel. In 2009, Shell introduced an employee cellphone policy as part of an initiative…