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Oklahoma Law - CompSource Oklahoma


									                                     Technology continues to move forward at a
                                     rapid pace, allowing more businesses to stay
                                     connected to customers, employees, vendors
                                     and business markets at a moment’s notice.
                                     Technology is enabling everyone to work
                                     more efficiently.

                  By Linda Morgan    Unfortunately, with the increased use of
                                     electronic devices, there is a disturbing,
                                     national trend emerging that links cell phone
                                     use with automobile crashes. As we become
                                     increasingly addicted to our BlackBerrys, cell
                                     phones and other electronic devices, distracted
                                     driving is taking its toll on our highways.
                                     Cell phone use has grown substantially since
                                     1995 with phone subscriptions going from 13
                                     percent of the U.S. population to 87 percent
                                     by 2008.

                                     Driving while talking, texting, or e-mailing on
                                     a cell phone or other device has been shown
                                     to pose a serious distraction and interferes
                                     significantly with driving a motor vehicle. In
                                     fact, studies show that talking on a cell phone,
                                     hands-free or not, while driving is as risky
                                     as driving with a .08 blood alcohol level, the
                                     legal limit for drunken driving.* The risk of
                                     texting while driving is even greater.

                                     According to the National Highway Traffic
                                     Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor
                                     vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of work-
                                     related death. In addition, the use of cell
                                     phones and other mobile devices now
                                     accounts for 25 percent of all police-reported
                                     traffic accidents.

                                     As the statistics climb, an overwhelming
                                     number of scientific studies and reports
                                     indicate that texting while driving presents
                                     a markedly higher risk to drivers than other
                                     driver distractions.

                                     A study released from Virginia Tech
                                     Transportation Institute (Virginia Tech) found
                                     that truck drivers that text while driving are
                                     23 times more likely to crash.

                                     A majority of drivers, 87 percent, agree that
                                     drivers texting or emailing pose a serious
                                     safety threat to the roadways. Interestingly, in

                                    * University of Utah 2006 study comparison of the cell
                                      phone driver and the drunk driver.
2   Compensator
a 2009 survey of 2,500 drivers, 21 percent of those polled admitted
to texting while driving, even though they agreed it posed a safety

                                                                         Oklahoma Law

According to the Virginia Tech study, in the seconds before a crash      By Callie Collins de Roldán
or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at
their devices - long enough at average highway speeds to cover the       During the 2010 legislative session,
length of a football field.                                              Oklahoma joined other states that
While many states have passed laws regarding cell phone use              currently have cell phone regulations. On
while driving, most address hand-held devices and/or texting. But        April 13, House Bill 2276 was passed and
penalties for breaking the law are often nothing more than a slap on     will go into effect on Nov.1. It increases
the wrist and a $20 fine. Utah and Alaska are exceptions. Both states    the ability of law enforcement to ticket
have taken a tough stance on the use of electronic devices while
                                                                         drivers when the officer observes driving
driving. As you might expect, tough laws in those states came about
as a result of needless tragedies on their roads.                        that “poses an articulable danger to other
Reggie Shaw, a 19-year-old Utah college student, was driving west
in his SUV when he crossed the yellow dividing line and clipped          “The focus is that the simple use of a cell
another car headed east. Two scientists were in the other car that was
                                                                         phone in itself is not to be prohibited,” said
headed to ATK Launch Systems. The scientists were killed when
their vehicle careened out of control and was struck by a pickup         State Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs,
truck.                                                                   author of the bill. “However, when it’s
                                                                         coupled with weaving, running other cars
When questioned, Shaw said he couldn’t remember doing anything           off the road or tailgating, it will constitute
unusual, however upon further investigation, it was revealed that
                                                                         distracted driving.”
he and his girlfriend had sent 11 text messages 30 minutes prior to
the crash. The last one was sent a minute before he called 911. He
                                                                         Texting while driving is already banned for
eventually admitted fault and pled guilty to two counts of negligent
homicide.                                                                state employees per an executive order by
                                                                         the governor. According to the executive
Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting        order, “State employees shall not engage
while driving. Although roadway regulations are normally enacted         in text messaging or texting (1) when
at the state level, there is sure to be more pressure from the federal
                                                                         driving government vehicles or when
government as it exerts its influence on other states to implement
stricter laws to ban texting while driving or risk the loss of federal   driving private vehicles on government
highway funds.                                                           business or (2) when using electronic
                                                                         equipment supplied by the State while
President Obama has already signed an executive order prohibiting        driving.” The executive order was signed
federal employees from texting while driving government or
                                                                         by the governor on Jan. 21.
privately owned vehicles while on official government business
and from texting while driving using electronic devices supplied
                                                                         At the time of production of this newsletter,
by the government. Under a separate measure the Department of
Transportation has banned cross-country truck drivers from sending       there were other bills being considered
text messages while driving.                                             regarding penalties for texting while
                                                                         driving. The bill listed here is the only one
In Oklahoma, Gov. Brad Henry recently signed an executive order          at the time of publication that had been
banning state employees from texting while driving state vehicles
or when driving private vehicles on government business or when          passed and signed by the governor.
using electronic equipment supplied by the state while driving.
Legislatures across the country, Oklahoma lawmakers included, have
attempted to address this issue with mixed results. In 2009 alone,

                                                                                                       Compensator        3
                                            more than 200 bills nationwide were introduced attempting to
                                            ban cell phone use while driving. Most were unsuccessful. As with
                                            any new technology, creating effective laws to address concerns is
                                            a slow process. Ban or no ban, one deterrent currently used by law
                                            enforcement is to simply write tickets for distracted driving.
    Inattention                             Some employers are following the government’s lead as more case
    Blindness                               studies and recent rulings in employer liability cases grab media
                                            headlines. For example:
    By Linda Morgan
                                            •	 One	case	involved	a	Smith	Barney	stockbroker,	Robert	Tarone,	
                                               in Pennsylvania who killed a motorcyclist while driving and
    Vision is the most critical sense          talking on his cell phone on the way to a non-business related
    needed for safe driving. However,          dinner. The company didn’t provide its employees with cellular
                                               phones but Tarone contended he was making a company-related
    studies reveal that drivers that are
                                               cold call when the accident happened. Other employees testified
    using either hands-free phones or
                                               that making cold calls on personal time was expected. His
    hand held phones tend to “look             employer was held to be liable. The firm decided to avoid the
    at” but not “see” objects. Research        potential risk in front of a jury and awarded the victim’s family a
    indicates that drivers using cell          $500,000 settlement.
    phones fail to see up to 50 percent
    of the information in their driving     •		 In	Yoon	v.	Wagner,	a	Virginia	state	court	case,	an	attorney	with	
    environment. Distracted drivers             a prominent law firm hit and killed a 15-year-old girl while the
    experience what researchers call            attorney was driving home from work. Billing records showed
    “inattention blindness,” similar to         that she was making work-related calls at the time of the
    tunnel vision.                              accident. A jury rendered a $2 million wrongful death verdict
                                                against the attorney who also lost her law license. The law firm
    The National Safety Council has             settled its part of the case for an undisclosed amount prior to
    compiled more than 30 research              trial.
    studies and reports by scientists
                                            Employers who clearly limit the job scope of their employees by
    around the world using a variety of
                                            prohibiting cell phone use that is dangerous are taking a wise
    research methods. All the studies
    have shown that hands-free phones
    offer no safety benefit from driving    No doubt the regulations that currently exist across the country
    because of the cognitive risk that is   that limit texting while driving will improve road safety. To be
    created as the user becomes involved    sure, those states that have implemented laws restricting cell phone
    in the phone conversation. Hands-       use to hands-free devices have done so with the idea that it would
    free devices do not eliminate this      eliminate the driver distraction risk. However, much evidence
    cognitive distraction.                  indicates that banning use of hand held devices while permitting
                                            use of hands-free devices will do little to reduce driver distractions
    For more information on this subject    associated with cell phone conversations. To learn more about
    visit     cognitive distractions, read “Inattention Blindness.”
    and access the white paper offered
    by the National Safety Council on       Determining how businesses can continue to utilize emerging
    “Understanding the Distracted Brain.”   technologies without sacrificing the quality/quantity of work or
                                            increasing safety hazards is an evolving process. Certainly the
                                            national debate will grow about this issue as we develop ways to
                                            address the related injuries and deaths on our highways.

4       Compensator
What you can do.
Take Action. Implement a cell phone use policy.

Liability is increasing for employers who do not     Set up teams to problem-solve
communicate appropriate safety guidelines            implementation. Once a policy is decided,
for cell phone use to employees. A number of         include a mix of management, supervisors, and
high-stakes lawsuits have been won against           other employees to serve as promoters for the
employers whose employees were involved              new policy process.
in accidents while using their cell phones. In
an effort to keep employees safe and reduce          Communicate positive results. After policy
liability, some employers are implementing           implementation, let employees know about
their own restrictions on when and how               any benefits or positive results that have come
electronic devices are to be used. See below         about as a result.
recommendations of the National Safety Council
for employee buy-in from their Cell Phone Policy
                                                     NSC Disclaimer: Although the information and recommendations contained
Kit.                                                 in this article have been compiled from sources believed to be reliable,
                                                     the National Safety Council makes no guarantee as to, and assumes no
Begin dialogue. Hold employee meetings to            responsibility for, the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such
discuss the need for a policy about electronic       information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may
device use.                                          be required under particular circumstances. Visit
                                                     for the latest material and updated content for the Cell Phone Policy Kit.

Discuss barriers. Changing habits can be             Note: Reprinted with permission from the National Safety Council. This
difficult. Give employees the opportunity to         information is based on recommendations published by the National Safety
discuss challenges to implementing restrictions.     Council, via the Cell Phone Policy Kit. The Kit is free and downloadable at

Ask for solutions. Solicit ideas from employees
to overcome challenges. This will encourage
their “buy-in.”

Share ideas to maintain productivity.
Employees may be concerned about how a
policy will impact their ability to get the job
done. Be clear about management’s priority of
                                                           In a survey of its 13,000
employee safety first. Encourage employees to              members, the National Safety
share ideas about how to overcome obstacles to
                                                           Council found 469 employers
                                                           had implemented a policy
Share compelling stories. Use video and public
education resources to convey the risk of injuries         restricting use of electronic
and death due to crashes. Many people believe              devices while driving.
using hands-free devices is safer. Sharing stories
about crashes during hands-free phone use will
communicate the still-present risk.

                                                                                                         Compensator               5
                                                                                 It’s Serious Business.
                                                                                 By Steve Compton

    Digging trenches is a standard part of many of our          The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    policyholders’ operations. Trenches are critical to         (OSHA) has specific standards that address trench
    those businesses involved in utilities, construction,       safety and should be used as part of your trench safety
    municipalities, communications and many others who          program. Unfortunately, having a trench safety program
    support these types of operations.                          and requiring its use are two different issues. Very often
                                                                the argument is made that “we will only be in there for
    On average each year, 1,000 trenches fail in the U.S.       a few minutes” or “we aren’t going that deep!” Both
    causing costly business delays and serious injury           statements ring hollow after a trench collapse. Each year
    and death. Most trenching fatalities occur in small         50 to 100 workers are killed in trench accidents.
    companies with fewer than 10 employees. More than
    half of trench failures are in trenches five to nine feet   Through proper planning and investment, trench
    in depth and the majority had no protective system in       entries do not have to be burdensome and the necessary
    place to prevent the wall collapse.                         work can be done efficiently and safely. Shoring systems
                                                                have become less expensive, more readily available and
    Sadly, these accidents could have been prevented            easier to utilize over the last ten years.
    through the use of simple trench safety techniques
    like sloping, shoring or shielding. Site conditions such    While the OSHA standards state any trench deeper
    as soil type, access and trench depth will impact the       than five feet must have a protective system in place,
    protective system to be used, but there is no excuse for    always take into account what work is to be performed
    failing to have an effective system in place before an      in the trench and how the employee will be performing
    employee enters the trench.                                 the work. Don’t assume that this rule covers every
                                                                possible work scenario.
    Most people are surprised to know a square foot of soil
    can weigh up to 100 pounds depending on soil type           The CompSource Oklahoma risk/loss prevention
    and moisture content. Many fatalities have occurred         department can assist you in developing an effective
    where the victim was not completely buried, but was         trench safety program. Contact Steve Compton,
    unable to breathe due to the tremendous weight of soil      director of risk/loss prevention at 405-962-3750 or at
    on their chest.                                    to schedule a meeting with
                                                                qualified staff.

6        Compensator
Ask the Expert

   “Do I have to provide personal
   protective equipment such as
   safety glasses and hard hats
   to my employees?”

                                                                                        Steve Compton
                                                                                  Director of Risk/Loss Prevention

Yes,	for	two	simple	reasons.	The	first	is	that	federal	   A common complaint we hear from many
safety standards which are set by the Occupational        policyholders is that it is difficult to get their
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require           employees to wear the equipment. Making the
that an employer identify the potential risks within      proper use of PPE a job requirement can resolve
their operations, and where these risks cannot be         this issue. After all, how many times do you have to
otherwise eliminated, provide appropriate personal        tell an employee to stop stealing? Why would you
protective equipment (PPE) to protect the employee        treat an employee who continues to ignore safety
from harm. The standards also go on to state that         requirements and subsequently puts the business at
the employer is responsible for the costs of this         greater economic risk any differently?
                                                          CompSource’s risk/loss prevention department can
The second, and more important reason is the              assist you if you have any questions about proper
use of proper PPE greatly reduces the chance of           personal protective equipment selection and use,
an injury. The cost of providing proper PPE is            or any other safety issues. Contact Steve Compton,
minimal compared to the cost of medical treatment,        director of risk/loss prevention at 405-962-3750 or
permanent disability and business interruption  
arising from those injuries that could otherwise have
been prevented.                                           If you have a workers’ compensation question that
                                                          you would like answered by a CompSource expert,
The implementation of an effective PPE program            please email questions to:
requires an understanding of the need and benefit
of PPE by both management and employees. Given
the wide range of PPE on the market today, most,
if not all of the past issues associated with comfort
and fit have been eliminated.

                                                                                                    Compensator      7
                                                                                                                                                                            PRSRT STD
                                                                                                                                                                           U.S. Postage
                                                                                                                                                                           Permit 1336
                                                                                                                                                                           Okla. City, OK
P.O. Box 53505
Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3505

        Other States Coverage
        CompSource’s other states coverage program is redefining some of the
        requirements for out of state coverage exposure and permanent locations to
        accommodate the needs of our customers wherever possible. If you are in need of
        other states coverage, please contact us as the underwriting requirements have
        changed. For more information call 800.347.3863 ext. 5102.

 The Compensator is published quarterly by CompSource Oklahoma, 1901 N. Walnut Ave., P.O. Box 53505, Oklahoma City, OK 73152 as authorized by CompSource’s President and CEO. 26,000
 copies were printed by Southwestern Stationery and Bank Supply at a cost of .33 cents per copy. Copies have been deposited at the Publication Clearinghouse of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

 The Compensator is a publication provided exclusively for policyholders. Editions are posted on our website at under “News.” Direct inquiries to (405) 962-3813.

                     How to contact CompSource Oklahoma:
                     Phone number: 800.347.3863 • TeleClaims reporting: 800.872.7015 • Fraud hotline: 800.899.1847
                        Regional offices: (OKC) 405.232.7663 (Tulsa) 918.295.1500 • Website:

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