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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingDecember 05 - December 11, 2018
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Sharing Social Media Images

IMG b8522By Brian J. Riker

All tow bosses need to have an established and written social media policy. It will help protect you from libel should one of your employees post something inappropriate without your consent. A good social media policy will prohibit sharing images and stories in the following situations:

• Fatalities, especially before the investigation and litigation have closed
• Images that clearly identify the customer and/or bystanders including license plate numbers
• Images of injured persons, bodies and large amounts of clearly identifiable bodily fluids
• Images not directly related to the recovery or removal of the casualty vehicle
• Images identifying fellow responders without their express consent
• Images of your competition without their express consent—this can lead to a defamation claim

It's important to recognize that images captured as part of our job may be subject to discovery in any pending litigation or investigation. Sharing them publicly before the case is closed can compromise justice, albeit unintentionally. Additionally, in some states it may be illegal to capture images at a crash or other emergency scene without permission of the responding law enforcement agency.

Even simple recovery images can get you into some trouble down the road, and it may not even be related to the job in the photograph. I see images daily showing towers using "creative" rigging. While I applaud your efforts to solve the immediate crisis, sharing documentation of overloading rigging or using your equipment outside of it's intended design is bad practice. Why? Should there be an injury later due to equipment failure, it is highly likely that those images will come up during the investigation and could potentially make you liable for the damages.

I suggest that you review all images personally before sharing them to any public forum. It's time-consuming; but may very well save you from exposure to litigation. It would be best if your team only used company equipment (cameras or phones) to capture images. That way, you retain full ownership and control of all jobsite images until a time that a responsible and qualified person at the company has reviewed and cleared them for release.

Absent company cameras, I suggest adding an intellectual property clause to your employee policy that states your company owns the rights to any images captured during the course of their employment.

Tow operators take pride in their work and love to brag, uh ... share, and I encourage this, but only after the tow boss has made sure the images released to the public portray the company appropriately.

I must also caution against sharing questionable images in private forums. There may be members of the forum that do not have your best interests at heart. Yes, we need to share our blunders as well as successes to foster a learning environment; however I strongly caution against sharing anything questionable without disclosure of the steps taken to remedy the mistake and ensure the integrity of the equipment was not compromised.

Regardless of how well group moderators manage our non-public industry focused groups representatives for our clients, investigators and even regulatory agencies still manage to gain access. Usually the sharing of ideas is welcome and helps us all to grown professionally, but again caution is warranted to protect your assets.

None of us are immune; I have seen media ads from major equipment manufacturers with blatant OSHA violations, misused equipment and more. Media outlets have on occasion used a photo that may not portray the best possible use of equipment or safest work environment. I have done it myself, before I started thinking like a compliance specialist.

I enjoy seeing how other towers do the job across the country as well as around the world. Thank you for putting your jobs up for all to see on the various social media platforms. With this abundance of sharing comes some responsibility, so let's be careful with what we post.

Brian J. Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at brian.riker@fleetcompliancesolutions.net
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