Companies—Not the OHS Laws—Should Ban Cell Phone Use
It should be clear by now that using cell phones while driving is dangerous as it distracts drivers from focusing on the road and its hazards.
Using cell phones or other electronic devices, such as tablets and MP3 players, in the workplace can be equally dangerous. For example, a worker walking while texting could get run over by mobile equipment. And does anyone think a worker operating, say, a back hoe should be talking on his cell phone at the same time? (Read BC lawyer Robert Smithson’s take on the distractions of cell phone use on the job.)
Despite these fairly clear hazards, the OHS laws are pretty much silent on the use of electronic devices on the job—until now that is.
Manitoba recently enacted new regulations that specifically bar workers from using electronic devices such as cell phones while acting as “flag persons.”
We asked if you thought the OHS laws should ban workers from using such devices on the job. We got mixed results:
- 42% said no, their use should be regulated by company policy
- 35% said yes, but only for safety-sensitive positions
- 23% said yes because use of electronic devices by any worker is dangerous.
If safety professional think use of electronic devices by workers should be regulated by individual companies, they must ensure that their workplaces have such policies—and that they’re actually enforced.
For example, failing to enforce a distracted driving policy cost Coca-Cola $21 million (USD) after one of its salespersons got into an accident while driving a company car and talking on her cell phone.
For resources that can help you implement policies on cell phones and other electronic devices, go the OHS Insider’s Cell Phone and Other Electronic Devices Compliance Center, where you’ll find, among other things:
- a briefing for senior management on company liability for distracted driving accidents
- a slideshow on 11 lawsuits involving worker distracted driving
- the dangers of texting while driving
- a Model Cell Phone Use Policy
- a Model Distracted Driving Policy
- a Music Device Policy
- a Distracted Driving Infographic.