During every holiday season of the last 25 years, the sitting president has proclaimed December National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month. These days, it is now known as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month because the risk is no longer just holiday revelers. The White House wants to also put a spotlight on the dangers caused by drivers distracted by their cell phones.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, car accidents cost employers $60 billion a year in medical care, legal expenses, property damage and lost productivity. They also drive up the costs of workers’ compensation, Social Security and private insurance. That’s not even taking into consideration the loss of life. In President Obama’s proclamation he noted that drunk drivers kill more than 10,000 people every year. Then you have to add the deaths caused by those using illicit drugs and those who kill, or are killed, because they are looking at their phones instead of the road. The numbers are heartbreaking.
All month you can expect to see significantly more enforcement on the roads. It’s a good reminder for employers that there are risks involved, not just with having your employees driving on your behalf, but if you are planning any kind of holiday celebration.
You might have an iron-clad alcohol and drug testing policy that protects you during the rest of the year, but if you have a holiday party with alcohol, that screening program isn’t going to cover you. There are legal risks for employers if someone gets into an accident after drinking at the company party. Depending on your state, you could be liable for workers’ compensation, especially if the party happens during the regular work hours. Employers might also be sued for wrongful death or negligence.
So how do you celebrate, but play it safe?
- Have a clear policy that states no alcohol or illegal drugs will be allowed at work functions.
- If you decide to serve alcohol, be sure the event is clearly labeled as a SOCIAL event and is NOT mandatory.
- Limit the amount of alcohol served, or the time frame when it is served.
- Serve food
- Have someone at the door to make sure anyone who is impaired doesn’t get behind the wheel.
After the parties are done, the New Year is a great time to review your policies on drug and alcohol screening for anyone driving or operating heavy equipment for your company. It is also a smart plan to have a policy regulating the use of cell phones when your employees are out on business. The risks are real and you can help your employees get home safely.