September 26, 2017

Which Personal Electronic Devices Are Your Employees Using?

By Paul Bieber

Cell phones. Smart Watches. Tablet computers. IPods. Most employees have access to these devices in their life. Most use them responsibly. But some don’t. Are these folks working in your plant, shop or office? Read on the see the problems that occur when companies don’t have policies and enforcement in place.

The number one goal is safety. An employee with earbuds listening to loud music can’t hear, “Look out!” shouted from a co-worker who sees a problem. This is the story in one line. Can you ban personal listening devices in your company?  Yes you can. Don’t hesitate to introduce this policy. It has been proven in many studies that having some background music in work places actually helps productivity.  So, you can put a radio in the shop, tuned to a station that all agree on, at a moderate volume, which cannot be increased for any reason.  (I’ve dated my self–does anyone still use a radio other than when in a car?) 

Make the policy of no earbuds strong. On the first offense, the employee gets sent home for the day; the second offense, is a lay-off of three days; and the third calls for instant termination. Discuss this with your safety committee if you have one, or with a union representative if you have one, but don’t back down. Create this policy ASAP.

What about cell phones? Can an employee use their personal cell phone during work hours? This is a much trickier issue. How do you decide what is appropriate? A phone call from a spouse asking to bring home a quart of milk? The school nurse calling about their son who had an accident in the playground? A one-minute phone call takes about four minutes of your employee’s time. They have to think about the call, and then refocus on their job duties.

Do you allow employees to use their personal phones for company business so they don’t have to carry two phones? Do you give your employees a cell and tell them it is OK to use for personal calls?  

Please help me with this one. What is your company’s policy? Tell me if you are a small, medium or large company and what part of our industry you are in. If I get enough responses, I’ll follow up with the results.

Remember, the number one concern is safety when anything distracts an employee.