Cell Phone Distractions at Work

machine operator using a cell phone

Cell Phone Distractions at Work

We all know that we’re not supposed to text and drive, but what about using your cell phone while at work?  Read more to learn about cell phone distractions at work and the dire consequences it may have.

High Risk Operating Machinery

Distracted driving of any kind is dangerous, but using a phone while operating heavy machinery provides even more reasons for concern. It reduces dexterity and causes delayed reactions while operating cumbersome, heavy equipment.

While using cellular phones is a common method to contact a person on equipment, these operators need their hands and minds to do their job properly. Current OSHA standards forbid the use of mobile phones in cranes and derricks. However, operators can receive hands-free calls.

Nonetheless, many believe cellphones and heavy machinery do not mix and businesses should not allow them in the workplace, or only under very strict rules.

Distracted Driving

When an operator uses a cellphone while driving a forklift, company vehicle, or other equipment, they’re distracted. They’re focused on the call, text message, or even their game, instead of their work. It reduces their spatial awareness and ability to detect hazards and can lead to accidents, injuries, and property damage.

Consequently, many associations such as the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) now issue alerts regarding cell phone use and distracted driving. Most states have strict distracted driving laws for licensed vehicles too, and they apply to company employees.

Bystander Risk

A person on their cell phone isn’t watching for heavy machinery because they’re less aware of their surroundings. They can easily walk into the path of an oncoming machine, trip on uneven terrain, or even walk into hazardous materials, or collide with stored goods to create a hazard and damage. Permitting cell phones increases risk of injury, illness or death and workers’ compensation claims.

Understand the Implications

OSHA can use cell phone distractions and associated hazards against employers too. General contractors can face liability charges if their subcontractors use cell phones improperly at a job site if they have caused, or may cause, an accident. However, OSHA citations and penalties are only part of the picture.

Employers are potentially liable for the acts of their employees for personal injury or property damage they cause while working. If your company does not prohibit cell phone use and enforce the policy, you could face a lawsuit if an accident occurs.

Update Policies

Undoubtedly, OSHA will respond with stricter guidelines and the insurance industry will adapt their policy clauses to address cell phone use within the workplace. Your business should consider banning cell phone use while operating motorized vehicles of any kind, and anywhere it poses a potential hazard to employees.

Craft or revise your communications policy and distribute it to all employees. Spell out the consequences of violations and enforce the policy consistently with management and non-management personnel.

Insurance Rates

An increase in accidents caused by distracted employees leads to higher workers’ compensation rates and insurance premiums. Cell phones are also a recognized fire and explosion risk, especially in dusty areas or areas with flammable chemicals.

Managing risk requires proper insurance coverage too, and Gilbert’s Risk Solutions is your insurance expert. Let us minimize your risk and reduce the frequency and severity of workers’ compensation claims. We’ve helped companies for over 160 years, and we’re here for you too.

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