Mobile technology can be a valuable tool for the construction industry, but when it comes to using it on the job site, there’s one device workers should probably leave behind…their cell phone.
Although cell phones can be a necessary method of communication on job sites, they can also distract workers from potential hazards and recommended safety practices. And despite an absence of OSHA regulations pertaining exclusivity to cell phones on the job site, OSHA can cite employers for violating the general duty clause, which states the requirement to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards.
Employers can also violate OSHA’s cranes and derricks standard by allowing cell phones on the job site, since it states “the crane or derrick operator must not engage in any practice or activity that diverts his or her attention while actually engaged in operating the equipment, such as the use of cellular phones.”
Phones may be used for signal communication but OSHA requires a hands free system for the operators’ reception of signals. A construction worker who uses a cell phone while operating a motorized vehicle may face civil or criminal liability for damages they cause. An employer can also face liability for the acts of its employees if it fails to enforce a policy that prohibits texting while driving.
General contractors can also face OSHA liability for worksite hazards if they fail to address actions by subcontractor employees who use mobile phones improperly on site. As such, general contractors should be cautions of improper mobile phone usage by their subcontractors.
Employers in the construction industry should consider implementing the following Four Procedures For Work Site Cell Phone Safety:
- Enacting and enforcing clear policies that prohibit texting and talking on the cell phone while operating any kind of motorized vehicle on site.
- Consider a prohibition on workplace cell phone use in specific areas where distractions could create employee hazards, regardless of whether the employees are operating motorized vehicles.
- For company issued cell phones, consider the use of applications that block internet access and texting functionality while in a moving vehicle.
- Make construction sites cell phone free zones and post signs in designated areas to remind workers. Only allow workers access to their cell phones during break period and in designated areas.
Besides the potential for OSHA penalties and legal liabilities, insurance rates can also be affected by job site cell phone use. With distracted employees causing an increase in accidents, the cost of workers’ comp and other insurance coverage is likely to increase. For further information contact your insurance specialists at the Contractors Insurance Agency.