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Re: What's Your Company Seatbelt Policy ? ?


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Hi All. I represented a tow company a few years back where a customer was critically injured after an unexpected head-on crash dumped a customer through and out the window of a tow truck. There was many questions as to whether-or-not the customer was wearing a belt, whether-or-not the tow operator told the customer to wear a seatbelt, and whether-or-not the tow company had written policy that spoke to any requirement to use seatbelts?


As a result of the young tower killed yesterday in Florida having been ejected from his vehicle, I went back to my list of tow operator fatalites to find as many as 27x tow operator incidents that reported towers NOT wearing seatbelts and those who were ejected from their tow trucks or carriers. Most died as a result of traffic accident with another vehicle, but a large percentage involved solo vehicle rollover crashes where towers were ejected during the roll.


I'll ask tow company owners, does your company HAVE and ENFORCE a companywide, "Seatbelt Policy", as a written requirement to wearing seatbelts? It's so very sad that this young tower lost his life for something so simple as wearing a seatbelt. While seatbelts won't save every life in every scenario, their use has proved effective in saving lives. I know that a policy may be in effect, and getting to wear seatbelts is a difficult task being that, "outta' sight outta' mind", mentality.


In my company's Employee Handbook, I have a solid policy that requires my employees to wear seatbelts, as required by the company and as required by law and OSHA guidelines. A written policy is not optional nor is it a violation of an employee's rights. You might say it's part of their Personal Protection Equipment to be used every time they operate ANY company vehicle or forklift as part of their duties. I personally believe seatbelt use saves lives. The following statement (in BLUE font) is my company policy requiring all employees and  passengers to wear seatbelts.


Seatbelts Policy – ALL Employees:


Section 27315 of California’s Vehicle Code REQUIRES tow operators, passenger(s) and all riders to wear seatbelts. Additionally, Tow Operators WILL ensure ALL passengers have seatbelts securely fastened. The Company requires ALL Tow Operators and Service Technicians, as well as other employees, to wear seatbelts in Company owned vehicles, tow trucks, of forklifts, as required by state, federal and OSHA mandates. Tow Operators and Service Technicians will NOT transport passenger(s) unless seatbelts are available for each person. In situations where there are more passengers than seatbelts, Operators will advise Dispatch and request appropriate supervisory solutions to be readily determined in the dispatch office.


ALL persons SHALL wear seatbelts when riding in Company owned vehicles. Specifically, any employee operating a Company vehicle SHALL ensure that ALL passengers are wearing seatbelts before said vehicle is put into motion. Forklift and heavy equipment operators will wear seatbelts at ALL times when the operator is seated atop a forklift truck or operating heavy equipment. NO operation will begin until a seatbelt(s) is securely and appropriately fastened.


If and employee is stopped by law enforcement for NOT wearing a seatbelt, the Company is NOT responsible for the fine levied. Dismissal MAY occur if Tow Operators or Service Technicians have cumulative violations of plus two-points and or preventable accident on their MVR and cannot be insured by our insurance provider. For other employees operating Company vehicles, you are also responsible to wear seatbelts and have all riders wear theirs.


Also note that, owners and managers are tasked with ensuring that tow drivers and employees comply with a seatbelt policy. Accordingly, if it's not written with company expectations that seatbelts are worn, then you can't discipline them for when they don't wear seatbelts. As owner, you set the tone for seatbelt use with intent of possibly saving your employee's life. If you have no written policy at the moment, and going forward, simply re-write this policy with the appropriate vehicle code in your state and add the heading that reads, "SEAT-BELT POLICY". At the bottom of the narrative, add a line for the employee's signature, a line below that for a witness signature, and a line for the date of presentation at the bottom of the paper. Present it immediately at your next safety meeting, at a special meeting with your (driving) employees, or in a one-on-one visit. With the employee signing the SEAT-BELT POLICY, they are agreeing to abide by the requirement of wearing seatbelts from the date of notification forward. If they don't want to sign it, then you'll have to jump off that bridge when that happens. The signed policy goes into the employee's file.


There are legal reasons beyond injury or death where your company should protects its best interests. Personally, to not require tow operators and employees to wear seatbelts on all occassions is a poor safety decision. Owners ... it's an easy policy to initiate if you already haven't. Make it a daily requirement that's not negotiable.      R.

Randall C. Resch

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