Employers looking to protect their employees from the leading cause of work-related fatalities should implement a policy requiring employees to wear seat belts while conducting company business, according the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Highway incidents lead falls and workplace homicides as the leading causes of work-related fatalities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"A mandatory belt use policy is the single most important road safety policy an employer can implement and enforce," said NIOSH Director John Howard in remarks prepared for the Motor Vehicle Safety Symposium. OSHA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were sponsors of the symposium.

Howard noted that in the general population, use of safety belts saved nearly 12,000 lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2000, and could have prevented an additional 9,000 fatalities had the victims been wearing safety belts, according to NHTSA estimates.

Injuries resulting from non-use of safety belts are estimated by NHTSA to cost employers more than $1 billion each year in health insurance and other direct costs, Howard noted.