Special Topics in Safety Management

Cell Phone Dangers: Crafting a Policy for Their Use

In addition to possible electrical hazards, cell phones may pose dangers to hearing and traffic safety. Here’s how to write a company policy to minimize some of the risks.

In Yesterday’s Advisor we started a discussion of cell phone hazards off with a bang—literally!

The article noted that safety experts, including the military’s Naval Safety Center, warn malfunctioning cell phone circuitry or batteries can produce a spark that can explode a flammable atmosphere. Such an atmosphere exists every time we fill our gas tanks.

Before you don a flak jacket to gas up, however, note that the Safety Center said the chances of this happening are exceedingly rare. So today, let’s look at safety issues with cell phones that are more in the mainstream.

Now hear this … or not

The first comes from the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Otolaryngologists are ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists.

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The group revealed a study showing serious danger of hearing loss to those making extensive use of mobile phones. “The study found that 100 people who had used mobile phones for more than a year suffered increases in the degree of hearing loss,” reported Occupational Health & Safety magazine. “Also, that people who used their phones for more than 60 minutes a day had a worse threshold than those with less use.”

The ENTs’ prescription? Watch out for ear problems including ringing in the ears, or a feeling of warmth and fullness. And use a headset instead of holding the phone against the ear.

Cell on wheels!

An even more recognized issue is cell phone use while driving, ever since a Canadian study found four times the accident rate among road talkers than the general population.

Although experts differ as to whether accidents are caused by phone use or just distraction in general, governmental entities have acted by proposing or enacting partial (for minors, school bus drivers, etc.) or total bans on cell phone use behind the wheel.

At the company level, your organization can be sued if a driver of a company vehicle, or even a private vehicle on company business, has an accident due to cell phone use, and that’s whether or not you supplied the cell phone.

The solution begins with a cell phone use safety policy. Here, from the BLR reference, Essential Safety Policies, are key elements such a policy should include:

Goal: Safe driving is the first priority. Never allow a phone conversation to distract you from concentrating on driving.

Use restrictions: Use a headset while driving, or pull over to use a hand-held cell phone. Plan any calls before you drive, and enter the numbers into speed-dial. Avoid placing calls while moving. If possible, ask a passenger to make the call or at least dial.

Conversations: Tell the person called you are driving and on a headset. Suspend the call in hazardous circumstances. Keep conversations short. Let your voicemail pick up calls when it’s unsafe for you to answer.

Emergencies: The best use of a cell phone may be to obtain roadside assistance or to report emergencies. Use 911 and give exact location, nature of emergency, name, and number.

Electrical hazards: Turn off your cell phone while using jumper cables or pumping gas. Both situations present a potential hazard of fire or electrocution.

A complete prewritten safety policies program

The cell phone use policy is one of dozens of prewritten safety policies in the Essential Safety Policies program. Taken together, they provide the makings of a ready-to-modify or use as-is safety handbook for all your workers. The legally compiled and reviewed policies are grouped into three major areas:

Get the safety policies you need without the work. They’re in BLR’s Essential Safety Policies program. Try it at no cost and no risk. Click to learn how.

Safety, including policies on PPE use, drugs and alcohol, hazard communication, work rules, weather, fire and other emergencies, fitness for duty, and disciplinary procedures.

Health, including communicable diseases, required physicals, ergonomics, and workers’ compensation.

Security, including polices on visitors, portable electronic devices, contraband, workplace and domestic violence, among others.

The policies are backed by a tutorial on policy writing and essential materials such as handbook receipts. There are some 279 pages of material in all in the book version. A CD version is also available.

If your organization could benefit from supplementing (or perhaps having for the first time) a complete set of safety policies, we highly recommend taking a 30-day, no-cost, no-obligation look at this program. Click here and we’ll be happy to send it to you.