Smart Phones and Safety

Mobile and smart phones can distract you while operating (or working near) mobile or high-risk plant, affecting your reaction times and awareness. This increases the risk of hitting pedestrians (or getting hit yourself) and colliding with other stuff.

As a result, you’re more likely to:

  • The act of hitting pedestrians (or of being hit yourself)
  • A collision with another plant or structure
  • Overloading or dropping things
  • Unintentionally moving or tipping over plants

Here are some examples of mobile communication devices:

  • Smartphones
  • Radios with two-way communication
  • Computers, tablets, and notebooks
  • Music players and other media players

What you can do to manage the risk?

It’s reasonable to prohibit the use of mobile communication devices when working on (or being around) mobile or high-risk plants if the risk is significant.

In order to do this effectively, you have to make sure all access to the devices is prohibited when the risk is present, like surrendering them.

When this isn’t practical, you can minimize risks by implementing a mobile device policy and making sure everyone abides by it.

Policies like this can include:

  • Using a hands-free device
  • Instead of mobile phones, use two-way radios
  • Keeping the conversation short
  • Only use when plant isn’t active
  • Using only in designated areas (e.g. exclusion zones)
  • Limiting non-essential use (e.g. for emergencies only)
  • Disallowing mobile phones in hazardous situations (such as when working with machinery and refueling)
  • Being sure not to interfere with others if you’re talking
  • Educating workers about the risks of inappropriate use

However, we have to be careful with our policies and procedures as targeted restrictions can impact the business. Here is a court case (15 November 2022) a company caused a company $30,000. 

Claims about  phone safety dismissed

In this case, an employer unlawfully hindered a union official by demanding he surrender his cellphone before entering the site, allegedly for health and safety reasons.

According to Judge, the company’s policy on mobile phones and taking photographs in certain circumstances does not relate to safety.

The company was found to have contravened section 501 of the Fair Work Act 2009 in August 2021 by barring the Union official from entering its Queensland based abattoir.

In breach of section 502 of the FW Act, the company manager “intentionally hindered” the official by “preventing him from entering with a mobile phone”.

In addition, company had created a checklist that only applied to union officers. The judge treated the two contraventions as one and found only one penalty should be imposed.”.

A 45 percent penalty, equating to $29,970, was then imposed, which was rounded up to $30,000.

The fine should be paid to the union, she said, because if it hadn’t pursued the matter, the company would have continued to restrict its statutory right of entry.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union v Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd (No 2) [2022] FedCFamC2G 933 (15 November 2022)

And another perspective for Smart Phones and Safety

Hi all, last week in the city I saved a person’s life. I was at the Creek and Ann street intersection.  And the lady next to me was happily talking away on her phone, oblivious to everything around her. The audible crossing sound went off, and she stepped out to cross the road.

Unfortunately, it was safe to cross sound for the other direction and she stepped out in front of the oncoming traffic. Luckily for her, I saw what was happening, grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back to the footpath. Want to know the best part? All she could say was “I wasn’t going to step out into the traffic”.

It’s a bit late to say I wasn’t going to do it when you get hit by a car and killed. What’s the bottom line? If you have the need to use your phone, STOP, and follow these rules. Never walk while texting or talking on the phone. If texting, move out of the way of others, never cross the street while using an electronic device, don’t walk with headphones in your ears and always be aware of your surroundings.

Till next time,
Nick. (EHS Advisor).

Nick Lines, is our regular blogger. I have trained Nick for  Initial WHSQ approved, 5 days Health and Safety Representatives,  and Health and Safety Representatives Refresher course.  The compassion and the interest in the course lead him to study my Cert IV in WHS, then Diploma and Finally, Nick started his University degree in Bachelor of Occupational Health and Safety.

WHS and Training Compliance Solutions offer WHS Training across Australia. Contact us for more information.

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