We live in a mobile world. With so many useful and entertaining features, we’ve quickly become dependent on our phones. This can be problematic when it comes to cell phone use and activities that require our full attention. According to a study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, 80 percent of the 94 million cell phone owners in the U.S. use them while driving. This is a major factor in the 284,000 accidents per year involving distracted drivers.
These stats translate to the construction site where the daily use of heavy machinery combined with cell phone use can also have a disastrous impact. There are stories of workers who have severed fingers on construction sites because they were using their cell phones while operating a saw – among other stories. For worker safety, it’s important to have a cell phone policy on your construction site.
Here are a few reasons why a cell phone policy is necessary in reducing the likelihood of workplace accidents.
A number of reports have indicated that using a cell phone while operating an automobile may be more dangerous than drinking and driving. Most sites have policies prohibiting intoxication while working. Cell phone use should be prohibited on job sites, especially if workers are using heavy or dangerous equipment. Even if workers aren’t operating heavy machinery, cell phone use is dangerous because it’s important to stay focused to avoid contact with vehicles or machinery.
Loss of productivity has been an issue in nearly all industries. Cell phones allow us to do so much more, but their allure tends to distract us from daily work. There are times when workers need to use cell phones and that’s why it’s important to integrate “cell phone” breaks into the day. Also, it’s important to have a protocol should family members need to reach employees in the event of an emergency.
If an employee gets into an accident while in a company vehicle, the company can be found liable. As mentioned previously, cell phone use can be a tremendous distraction for drivers. Not having a cell phone policy in place opens the door to a potential lawsuit, should an accident occur.
Beyond safety concerns, there are legal ramifications for not having a cell phone policy. Below are a few reasons why a cell phone policy is important for legal protection purposes.
Text messages are becoming a part of discovery in many cases and being used to prove or invalidate claims. Also, photos from cell phones can be used in daily reports, providing visual evidence of issues on the construction site.
We use cell phones so much that the lines between work and personal usage get blurred. Confidential information can get shared via text. Disgruntled former employees can use it to hurt companies. A cell phone policy can set guidelines for distribution of company information. It can also establish a protocol for departing workers.
The use of cell phones to harass others is prevalent in all walks of life, including the construction industry. To combat this, amend your harassment policy to include threats made via text message.
Cell phone usage has permeated nearly all parts of our society. Cell phones are indeed valuable tools in the field, but they can also be a cause for concern. Cell phones are so easy to use that we are deceived into thinking that we can perform tasks while using them. This dangerous practice not only leads to accidents on the jobsite, but can also have serious legal ramifications should your company enter litigation. Make sure to establish a cell phone policy so that workers are aware of what they can and cannot do while on the job.
Trent Cotney is the founder of Cotney Construction Law, specializing in roofing and construction law. See Trent’s full bio here.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.