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                        3 min read

                        Smart phones on worksites - our thoughts

                        Smart phones on worksites - our thoughts

                        For most people, smart phones have become an integral part of our daily routine and we use them for a vast range of personal and business purposes.

                        For most people, smart phones have become an integral part of our daily routine and we use them for a vast range of personal and business purposes.

                        They attract the ire of some and the admiration of others – just ask a parent with a teenager! Smart phones can bring both joy and sadness, as well as improve or impede productivity.

                        Nowhere is the contrast of good and evil highlighted as clearly as on a high-risk worksite.

                        By high risk, I mean a worksite where people are exposed to, or participate in, high risk activities such as working at heights, interacting with mobile plant & vehicle traffic, demolition, cranes, rigging, dogging and so on.

                        It’s in the context of mobile phone use in high risk work environments that I’d like to present some pros and cons, and ask for your opinion whether you believe smart phones are a positive resource or a significant concern on high risk worksites.


                        The Good, The Bad & The Ugly…

                        The Good:

                        Apart from wanting to fit in with the title of one of Clint Eastwood’s most iconic movies, I start with the good as I believe that smart devices offer considerably more advantages to workplaces than not.

                        These benefits come in the form of better communication, improved capture and use of data, education, training, monitoring, quality control and cost management. Not to mention enormous benefits around safety.


                        Some examples of how the technology helps access these benefits include:

                        • GPS & geolocation services assisting field service teams get to and between jobs in the most efficient fashion, and allowing access control, lone worker location and safety management;

                        • Near Field Communication (NFC), proximity sensing and vehicle/machine/pedestrian interaction management systems which use the smart phone as an identifier of a human presence and prevent collisions and hazardous interaction;

                        • Access to a growing range of specialist cloud based software, such as Plant Assessor, which enables improved machinery & contractor safety and reductions in compliance costs

                        • Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the design and subsequent construction and modelling of elements of the built environment, which can be delivered via;

                        • Augmented reality, which is starting to be used to deliver design and construction information to the front line to improve speed and quality of construction and reduce rework;

                        • Delivery and capture of information to and from workers on site, including:

                          • Work instructions & plans

                          • Hours worked

                          • Defects and rectification details

                          • Safety information, alerts, inspections & consultation

                          • Ordering of components or services

                          • Diagnostic information for offsite experts

                          • Training and competency verification


                        The Bad:

                        To me these are the broader somewhat negative aspects of smart phone use such as time wasting, addictions & bullying, including:

                        • Productivity killers such as extensive time spent accessing personal social media feeds, YouTube videos and streamed entertainment during “on the tools time”;

                        • Access to material and services that may develop or feed an addiction or be offensive to others, such as gambling and pornography;

                        • Other mental health issues associated with increased smart phone use, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and self-esteem related conditions that can arise from a dependency on/or addiction to social media;

                        • Cyber bullying – exposure to bullying behaviour from others inside and outside of the workplace.


                        In my opinion, the benefits of having an enforced break from these negative aspects of smart phones probably provides the strongest argument for the limitation of smart phone use on a high-risk worksite.


                        The Ugly:

                        I classify these as situations where use of a smart phone on site can give rise to immediate and real danger for the user or those around the user, most obviously:

                        • A vehicle driver or an operator using a smart phone whilst operating thereby increasing the risk of distraction and operator error potentially resulting in collision, rollover or other hazardous consequences for the operator and bystanders;

                        • A pedestrian using a smart phone whilst moving around on site, risk of distraction or reduced awareness of hazards present on site including moving vehicles and plant, slip, trip and fall risks, suspended loads and stored energies.


                        What is crystal clear to anyone who has used a smart phone is that they demand our attention, and distraction from phone use definitely gives rise to increased risk. People die on our roads every day as a direct result of mobile phone use and it will only be a matter of time until a workplace death will be directly attributed to use of a phone in a high-risk situation.


                        Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.

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