Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
U.S. Department of Transportation Summit
Prevention of Distracted Driving
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
It's a pleasure to be with all of you and with my fellow cabinet colleague Secretary LaHood.
I want to thank Secretary LaHood for holding today's summit on such an important topic and that is the prevention of distracted driving.
As the Secretary of Labor, I am charged with protecting America's workers and ensuring their workplaces are safe.
From ensuring the safety of construction workers to medical professionals and from our nation's miners to line cooks, our labor laws protect everyone in the workplace.
And while we experience fewer fatalities in the workplace today, the leading cause of worker fatalities year after year are motor vehicle crashes. Distracted Driving dramatically increases the risk of such crashes.
That is why the Department of Labor through its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is announcing that we are partnering with the Department of Transportation to combat distracted driving.
To reduce this deadly toll, we will first focus on texting while driving.
Prohibiting texting while driving is the subject of the Executive Order signed by President Obama last year for Federal employees, and the subject of rulemaking by the Department of Transportation.
We call upon all employers to prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving.
The OSHA Act is clear employers must provide a workplace free of serious recognized hazards.
It is well recognized that texting while driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality.
It is imperative that employers eliminate financial or other incentives that encourage workers to text while driving.
Employers who require their employees to text while driving or who organize work so that doing so is a practical necessity even if not a formal requirement - violate the OSHA Act.
Furthermore, we call upon all employers to follow the lead of President Obama, Secretary LaHood and 30 state laws that prohibit drivers from texting to prohibit their employees from texting while driving for work.
As I stated earlier keeping workers safe is our top priority.
That is why OSHA is launching a multi pronged initiative that will include:
- An education campaign to employers, launched during Drive Safely Work Week in early October, calling on employers to prevent occupationally related distracted driving with a special focus on prohibiting texting while driving;
- During Drive Safely Work Week our website will carry an open letter to employers….We will showcase model employer policies and team up with employer and labor associations to communicate our message;
- We will forge alliances with the National Safety Council and other key organizations to help us reach out to employers, especially small employers, to combat distracted driving and prohibit texting while driving;
- We will place a special emphasis on reaching young workers working with other Labor Department agencies, as well as our alliance partners and stakeholders; and
- When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or who organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, we will investigate and where necessary issue citations and penalties to end this practice.
I have also asked my Wage and Hour Division to examine what additional protections we can implement to ensure that young workers are not subject to distractions while driving on the job or operating equipment.
We simply cannot put a price on the health and safety of a child."
Employers have a legal and moral responsibility to protect their workers, who ultimately are America's most important asset.
Our laws are designed specifically to level the playing field for all businesses and ensure that workers are kept out of harm's way.
By prohibiting texting while driving, we are working to ensure that workers are safe on the road and that they return home safely at the end of their shift.
Because the bottom line is…no paycheck is worth a life!