Today, it seems like a smartphone or similar mobile device is a necessity for everyone, from childhood on. But this dependency on the latest technology can pose a serious safety threat in an industrial workplace setting.

As a responsible employer, you need to set technology usage rules to protect your employees from injury and your company from costly liability.

Distracted Driving Can Be Fatal

Business today is routinely conducted using cell phones; a necessary tool for employees to communicate and access needed information. Yet, these devices pose a potentially fatal threat if used unsafely or inappropriately.

  • Distracted driving is the number-one cause of workplace fatalities. And cell phones are the biggest cause of distraction, in the forms of texting, talking and game playing. Related distractions can impair employees’ spatial awareness, recognition of hazards and operation of machinery and equipment. If you have a “bring your own device” program or provide cell phones for use in your workplace, you must understand and manage any potential risks. OSHA maintains a Distracted Driving Initiative, in which it targets texting as a major cause of workplace injury. In a 2010 open letter to employers, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, David Michaels further discussed related employer responsibilities.
  • Driving while on the phone – for whatever reason – is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Make sure you not only have a policy, but it is consistently enforced.
  • Know the law. Thirteen states currently ban the use of handheld phones while driving, and 46 states plus the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers. In many other states, bans exist at county or city levels. Such laws open you, as an employer, to liability for accidents that result from your employees’ distracted driving or improper use of mobile devices. This is known as vicarious liability.

Other Distractions

Operators of other industrial machinery also can be quickly distracted by the use of mobile technology. OSHA forbids the use of cell phones in construction regulations pertaining to cranes and derricks, but the chance of hazard exists across any potentially dangerous equipment.

  • Make sure everyone is aware of their surroundings. Of recent concern is the use of “augmented reality” games such as Pokémon Go, where players walk around while distracted and search the real world for game-related information. These games should be prohibited from the workplace.

Bottom Line Disruption

Safety is first and foremost, but beyond potential accidents, consider the costs of possible civil and criminal liability, and skyrocketing insurance rates related to incidents involving technology at work. Your profitability can take a huge hit, along with the devastation of worker injury – or worse.

The StaffMasters team can help as you develop and implement your safety program, policies and procedures – and keep abreast of current OSHA and other business developments as they occur. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.


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