Cellphone Bans Allowed to Improve Workplace Safety
EHS Today recently reported that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined it is legal for employers to ban the use of cellphones by employees if they do so for safety and security reasons.
“Safe phone use is a big issue on jobsites,” says NFC safety committee member David Klatzkin. As safety director at Hull Associates in Grand Prairie, Texas, he is keenly aware of the many work activities happening throughout the day on the jobsite that require a worker’s undivided attention. “Phone use is a distraction to all activity that is happening,” he warns.
David brought the topic for the committee to address and the result was the addition of two new Toolbox Talks to NFC’s FrameSAFE program to provide subscribers with resources to address these safety concerns with workers.
The NLRB decision allows employers to take this a step further. “This is a good decision for employers,” states attorney Chad M. Horton in the EHS Today article. “Employers may now prohibit employees from using cellphones in work areas, particularly where the distractions caused by cellphones would pose safety risks or product integrity issues.”
With regard to how this ruling jives with employee protections found in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the article goes on to explain that “because of the distractions that are inevitably posed by cellphone use, the NLRB said ‘a blanket prohibition on usage in work areas is a reasonable restriction’ to reduce on-the-job accidents….”
While no specific OSHA regulation pertains exclusively to mobile devices, employers could face a citation under the General Duty Clause for failure to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. “These Toolbox Talks will create good discussion with our subs and employees on safe use of phones,” says David. “You can’t remind people too often about the importance of being aware of their surroundings at all times on the jobsite.”
FrameSAFE subscribers can download their Toolbox Talks on Mobile Device Use here. If you are interested in learning more about NFC’s FrameSAFE program or becoming an NFC member, visit the website or contact staff with questions.