Safe Mobile Device Use on the Job

Have you ever participated in a conference call or texted while driving? Used your laptop to work while on vacation? Checked work email while you were home sick? Scrolled through email while walking? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re among the tens of millions of workers whose use of mobile devices is helping expand the workers compensation exposure landscape.

Maureen McCarthy, senior vice president and manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Workers Compensation Claims group, encourages organizations to better manage their employees’ use of mobile devices. Notes McCarthy, “Twenty years ago, we never dreamed of all the ways workers remotely perform their jobs today. Now, employees may text while driving, scroll through emails while crossing the street, or use laptops while commuting to work, all of which can put them at risk of injury.” 

The fact that companies often supply these devices only encourages their increased use. McCarthy advises organizations to actively manage their employees’ use of mobile devices through the following steps:

  • Create a written mobile device policy that addresses the proper use of devices to place/receive and send/read phone calls, texts, emails, and the Internet while performing work-related tasks.
  • When issuing an employee a laptop, cellphone, or other mobile device, require the employee’s signature indicating agreement with your written policy. Having that policy and signature can go a long way toward helping manage and limit your company’s exposure.
  • Create and distribute leave policies that address your company’s expectations of employees on sick, FMLA, or other type of leave. For example, are the employees expected to check their email, return phone calls, check in on projects, etc., while on leave?

Avoid undermining these policies and procedures — have all employees, from the CEO down, follow them. Managers at all levels should examine how they conduct themselves while out of the office to make sure they aren’t setting the wrong example for their employees. Ask yourself whether you and your managers exhibit these behaviors:

  • Are always available for calls, no matter how routine
  • Make it clear they’re reachable around the clock
  • Expect their staff to be reachable 24/7 for nonemergencies
  • Place a high value on quick email responses after normal business hours
  • Expect employees to frequently check email after hours and while on vacation 

Expectations such as these can create significant pressure on employees, who may respond by using mobile devices in unsafe ways. Those comparatively carefree days when nearly everyone marched off to work an eight-hour shift in an office, plant, or store won’t be coming back, according to McCarthy. In fact, she says, “We’re really just at the beginning chapter of the issues we’ll face as mobile devices continue to expand the workday and workplace.” As work habits change, so too should your business safety policies.

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.