There is one device worker’s should leave behind: their cellphone. Though mobile technology can be a valuable tool for the construction industry, they are more of a threat than a benefit.
Cell phones they distract workers from potential hazards and recommended safety practices. OSHA can cite employers for violating the General Duty Clause, which states the need for a workplace free from hazards; however, there are no OSHA regulations pertaining to cellphones on the job site.
Employers can also violate OSHA’s cranes and derricks standard by allowing cellphones 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 communications, but OSHA requires a hands-free system for the operator’s reception of signals.
Employer and Employee Liability
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 their employees if they do not enforce a policy that prohibits texting while driving.
General contractors should also be cautious of improper mobile phone usage by their subcontractors. They can also face OSHA liability for worksite hazards if they fail to take actions by subcontractor employees who use phones improperly on-site.
Minimizing Safety Risks
Employers in the construction industry should consider the following recommendations regarding cellphone use on construction sites:
- Enact and enforce clear policies that prohibit texting and talking on a 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 cellphone-free zones, and post signs in designated areas to remind workers. Only allow workers access to their cellphones during break periods and in designated areas.
Besides the potential for OSHA penalties and legal liability, insurance rates can also be affected by job site cellphone use. With distracted employees causing an increase in accidents, the cost of workers’ compensation and other insurance coverage is likely to increase.
Even without distractions from cell phones, construction sites can be hazardous. Enforcing safety practices and consistently holding workers accountable can prevent unnecessary workplace accidents and costly liability. Contact Vanner Insurance Agency for more information on minimizing the risk of job site cellphone use.