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June 12, 2009

Common Sense Policies

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I read with dismay about a trolley collision in Boston last month that resulted when the operator rear-ended another trolley while he was texting his girlfriend on his cellphone.  MBTA (the transit authority) had a no-cellphone-use policy in place at the time of the crash, and the driver was subsequently fired. (Metro has a similar policy that forbids operators from even having an earpiece, phone or microphone even visible if they are in the “driver compartment” at all, even if they aren’t plugged into a phone or turned on.)

In response to the collision, MBTA enacted a no-cellphone-possession policy. That policy went into effect three weeks ago, and puts an absolute ban on cellphone possession by employees, even if the phone is off and zipped away in a bag. Employees caught with a cellphone get a 10-day suspension; employees caught actually using a cellphone “face immediate suspension and a recommendation for dismissal.”

The other day, I read that MBTA has issued its first suspension under the zero-tolerance policy. The employee was caught with a bluetooth device, and admitted that he had a cellphone in his bag. He wasn’t a driver, but rather

served as a train attendant who makes sure everyone is on the train and makes announcements, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

What do you think about MBTA’s zero-tolerance policy? Does your opinion change based on the specific job duties of the employee in question, or do you think the same policy should apply across-the-board at all times, no matter whether the person is actually driving a train, bus, or trolley? Would you be okay with it if your employer forbade you from bringing your cellphone on the premises?

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3 thoughts on “Common Sense Policies”

  1. Suzanne says:

    Have you seen the video of the van operator texting in San Antonio? Check the link here

    This is a clear example of why texting and driving do not go together. If this isn’t proof enough, the LA Metrolink head-on collision last year was also linked back to the train operator texting before he went through a red signal and crashed into the Union Pacific train.

    You can’t pay attention while texting to a complex action like driving. Anyone that is in a safety critical role that is allowing themselves to be distracted is putting the public in danger. It does depend on the role of the individual and the activity they are engaged in when using a personal cell phone.

    Driving the public is an important job that needs to be taken seriously. Managing employees is the best way to handle this. An all out ban to carry a cellphone may be a little ridiculous, since operators do get breaks and may have personal calls to make on a break. But there is no excuse for texting while driving especially when you are driving the public and are expected to be a professional safe driver!

  2. Jimmy Z says:

    One, you can’t legislate common sense, otherwise there’d be a law called Criminal Stupidity. Two, laws and rules are only as good as their enforcement. And three, employers can set any reasonable rules they want as a condition of employment – if you don’t like the rules, new or old, you have the choice to seek employment elsewhere. Otherwise, to keep your job, you need to follow the rules (what’s so complicated about that?) OR get the rule(s) changed.

  3. Jennifer says:

    If there were a law against stupidity, Jimmy Z, I bet we’d all be in the slammer from time to time! What you said re: enforcement is really the crux, isn’t it? Vigilant enforcement – and serious consequences for violation – help fill in the gaps where common sense is lacking.

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