By Matt Turner – Managing Director of Plant Assessor
For most people, smartphones have become an integral part of our daily routine and we use them for a vast range of personal and business purposes. Industry thought-leader and Managing Director of Plant Assessor, Matt Turner, discusses whether smartphones on high-risk worksites are a positive resource or a significant concern.
Smartphones attract the ire of some and the admiration of others — just ask any parent with a teenager! Smartphones can bring both joy and sadness, as well as improve or interrupt productivity.
Nowhere is the contrast of good and evil highlighted as clearly as on a high-risk worksite.
By high risk, I mean a worksite where people are exposed to, or participate in, high-risk activities such as working at heights, interacting with mobile plant and vehicle traffic, demolition, cranes, rigging, dogging and so on.
It’s in the context of mobile phone use in high-risk work environments that I’d like to present some pros and cons, and ask for your opinion whether, on balance, you believe smartphones are a positive resource or a significant concern on high-risk worksites.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…
Apart from wanting to fit in with the title of one of Clint Eastwood’s most iconic movies, I start with the good as I believe that smart devices offer considerably more advantages to workplaces than not.
These benefits come in the form of better communication, improved capture and use of data, education, training, monitoring, quality control and cost management. Not to mention enormous benefits around safety.
Some examples of how the technology helps access these benefits include:
- GPS and geolocation services assisting field service teams get to and between jobs in the most efficient fashion, and allowing access control, lone worker location and safety management
- Near Field Communication (NFC), proximity sensing and vehicle/machine/pedestrian interaction management systems, which use the smartphone as an identifier of a human presence and prevent collisions and hazardous interaction
- Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the design and subsequent construction and modelling of elements of the built environment
- Augmented reality, which is starting to be used to deliver design and construction information to the frontline to improve speed and quality of construction and reduce rework
- Delivery and capture of information to and from workers on site, including:
- Work instructions and plans
- Hours worked
- Defects and rectification details
- Safety information, alerts, inspections and consultation
- Ordering of components or services
- Diagnostic information for offsite experts
- Training and competency verification
To me, these are the broader, somewhat negative, aspects of smartphone use such as time wasting, addictions and bullying, including:
- Productivity killers, such as extensive time spent accessing personal social media feeds, YouTube videos and streamed entertainment during “on the tools time”
- Access to material and services that may develop or feed an addiction or be offensive to others, such as gambling and pornography
- Other mental health issues associated with increased smartphone use, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and self-esteem related conditions that can arise from a dependency on/or addition to social media
- Cyber bullying – exposure to bullying behaviour from others inside and outside of the workplace
I classify these as situations where use of a smartphone on site can give rise to immediate and real danger for the user or those around the user, most obviously:
- Vehicle driver or plant operator using smartphone whilst operating thereby increasing the risk of distraction and operator error potentially resulting in collision, rollover or other hazardous consequences for the operator and bystanders
- Pedestrian on site using smartphone whilst moving around on site, risk of distraction or reduced awareness of hazards present on site including moving vehicles and plant, slip, trip and fall risks, suspended loads and stored energies
What is crystal clear to anyone who has used a smartphone or smart devices is that they demand our attention, and distraction by phone use definitely gives rise to increased risk. People die on our roads every day as a direct result of mobile phone use and it will only be a matter of time until a workplace death will be directly attributed to use of a phone in a high-risk situation.
In my opinion, the benefits of having an enforced break from these negative aspects of smart phones probably provides the strongest argument for the limitation of smartphone use on a high-risk worksite.
If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, I’d be happy to take your call (1300 728 852) or find me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-turner-plant-assessor/