In the previous blog, we wrote about how the use of a mobile phone by a support worker resulted in an increase in the vulnerability of a service user and ultimately in their death. Everyone is aware how distracting a mobile phone is at work. With the presence of WIFI, greater communication is now possible. The internet is another diversion of a person’s concentration whether it is surfing the net, booking a holiday or buying an item. These activities can all be done in a matter of minutes and are both interesting and distracting from the work environment. It is so difficult not to look at a text or email message that beeps on the regular. The worker whilst checking a mobile message may believe they are fully aware of their activities and are likely to be unaware that their actions could result in someone becoming injured.
A mobile phone in the work environment can be both a need or a hindrance. Employers need to decide which it is and document the policy on the safe use of mobile phones. In most workplaces, the use of a mobile phone is not allowed. This is policy mainly in the higher risk industries such as manufacturing and construction. It is slowly becoming the case in the lower risk environments but there is still much work to be done on this area to ensure workers understand what is acceptable and what is not.
Employers have a duty of care to all workers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to provide a safe working environment. This environment may potentially be unsafe if one worker is distracted by the use of a mobile phone causing them to not carry out the work they are doing safely. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the employer to conduct a risk assessment around the safe use of mobile phones at work. The risk assessment will need to follow the HSE five step process covering the following:
1) Identify the hazards
2) Decide who might be harmed and how
3) Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
4) Record the significant findings
5) Review the assessment and update if necessary
Employers need to review what risks are involved with allowing employees to use phones at work. The employer needs to consider the safe use of mobile phones and the circumstance in which they are not to be used.
Mobile Phone Policy
Following the recording of a risk assessment then a mobile phone policy could be documented to give clear guidance on the use of mobile phones.
The policy should consider the following:
- When a mobile phone should be used at work
- Why a mobile phone is required to be used at work
- What the worker who is issued a company mobile phone can and cannot do
- What controls need to be considered for the safe use of a mobile phone at work
- Where a mobile phone should be used as it may be essential especially during lone work
- When a mobile phone is a liability and may contribute to an incident
There are benefits when considering whether a person may use a mobile phone. A mobile phone is a good means of communication when a person works alone or if a person is working with a colleague in an area where there is no landline. Company mobile phones could be issued where there is an identified need. The message is clear: mobile phones have advantages and disadvantages and must only be used where there is an identified reason, risk assessed and managed.
QCS have guidance and policies to support your service in meeting the requirements of health and safety.
Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor