Working While Distracted: How Your Contracting Business Can Set Meaningful Device Use Policies During the Workday

You’re calling the team around to talk about a particular concern, and you realize that a couple of people are consistently missing. Device use on the construction site can be a practical and timesaving decision, particularly for all the apps designed to improve safety or efficiency. But it’s easy to forget what a distraction smartphones and tablets can be while people are trying to work, as well. Here are several factors to consider as you put together a policy for smartphone use while employees are working.

Identify Existing Problems
Since there is such variety in the day-to-day workings of a contracting business, you’ll want to start by identifying the problems that you have. It’s worth investigating what you might expect if you have a larger workforce or if you start offering different services, but it may make more sense to begin with what you see right now. For example, many people use smartphones to listen to music or podcasts while they’re working. They may also use them to text while operating equipment. Watch the way you and your employees use them throughout the day, so that you can address the most pressing issues first.

Look at Benefits to Workflow
Smartphones create problems, but they also solve them. The worker who is busy on their phone while on a break can also communicate with you or other employees using the same device. Many apps designed to improve your construction workflow are meant to work on smartphones because these tools are fairly ubiquitous. Make a list of every way you use a smartphone during the work day for business-related tasks. You’ll need to make sure that they can still get done if you change how much access your business allows for it.

Consider Future Risks
Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out what are your biggest risks from permitting smartphone use at the jobsite, now and in the future. Employees who are wearing noise-canceling headphones with music playing may not be as aware of their surroundings, or might not be able to hear warnings from others. This is what OSHA claims is one of the biggest safety risks related to smartphone use. But other activities that require smartphones may also be a problem. Devices and apps can cut down on the time you spend working on projects, but they’re only worth it if they can remain a helpful tool and not a dangerous distraction.

Avoid Reactive Decisions
In the wake of a near-miss, it’s tempting to set a strict no-smartphone policy that leaves little room for ambiguity. And for some jobsites, this may simply be a requirement. After all, if you’ve got a team of people running heavy equipment all day long, it would be awful if one of them was regularly looking away from the mark to answer text messages. But it’s important to make your policy decisions from a position of clear-headedness and reason. If you used to have a permissive policy and now you allow nothing at all, you may inadvertently encourage people to try to sneak around you. In short, you’ll need to get your employees’ buy-in for a policy change to work.

Set Realistic Goals
Any hardline policy for employee safety needs to be serious. But it also must be something that you can carry out consistently. For example, if you say that you’ll collect and secure everyone’s smartphones when they arrive and keep them until the end of the work day, you’ll need to be able to enforce that policy every single day. If you decide that you’ll give people access on breaks, you’ll be in charge of getting them back once that break is over. Talk to your workers and get their input about what they need and how you can find a safe compromise. You’ll be much more likely to get their compliance as a result.

Monitoring smartphone use on the jobsite is just one more thing you’ll need to be able to do as an owner of a contracting business. For more tips about developing your contracting career, contact CSLS today!

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