New Risk for Operators: Texting While Driving Forklift

forklift1The smartphones that practically everybody carries with them are both a blessing and a curse. While they make it possible to continually interact with family, friends, and co-workers, they also create an enormous distraction that can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.

Smartphones that facilitate texting are a relatively new phenomenon in the workplace. As such, not every company has created a fool-proof system for preventing workers from using their devices while on the job.

Workplaces Adjusting to New Technologies 

Some have tried. Amazon prohibits its warehouse workers from bringing any electronic devices into its distribution centers and checks employees at the door to make sure they are in compliance.

But many companies today — if not most — leave it up to the employees to self-regulate their use of smartphones. Some aren’t sure if they’re even allowed to prevent using their phones while on the job or are swayed by worker’s explanations that they need to have access to their devices in order to keep tabs on children or loved ones.

Smartphone use is rampant in many businesses. And it’s not only creating a safety risk, but it’s affecting productivity as well. When workers are looking at their phones, they aren’t looking at what they are doing. This can lead to increased accidents, less work being performed, and a lack of focus by workers on the job at hand.

Driving While Distracted

Texting, checking emails, and interacting with social media creates a distraction that prevents drivers from paying attention to the road. And the rise in “driving while distracted” accidents have prompted most states to outlaw the manual use of smartphones while operating a motor vehicle. Only “hands-free” devices may be used by drivers.

But do these laws extend to forklift operators? And are warehouse and factory managers within their rights in prohibiting forklift drivers from using their smartphones while on the job?

The answer depends on the jurisdiction in which the business is located. Legally, some states don’t require forklift operators to have valid driver’s licenses. So the laws that apply to automobile drivers don’t always transfer to forklift operators.

Yet most courts recognize that workplaces have the right to create and enforce their own work rules. As long as employees are informed of the rules and they are applied consistently to everybody, they are likely to hold up to a legal challenge.

Forklifts and Smartphones Don’t Mix

You wouldn’t allow a forklift operator to watch TV while they were driving. Or talk on the telephone. So why is it okay for drivers to constantly be checking their smartphones?

The best approach to preventing operators from driving while distracted is to prohibit them from bringing their smartphones with them on the job. Require workers to leave their phones in their personal vehicles or in their lockers — then enforce these rules by checking employees as they enter you facility and penalize violators with disciplinary action.

If forklift operators genuinely need smartphones to perform their job functions — such as communicating with supervisors — limit them to work-provided smartphones that can only be operated hands-free.

 

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