Cell phones are so common these days that it's hard to remember a time -- not much more than a decade ago -- when most of us used a phone that was tethered to a wall with a cord. The ability to have a conversation from almost anywhere with almost anyone makes the cell phone a necessity for modern business. But this extraordinary convenience brings with it safety concerns that employers must address through written policies.
This article explains why you need a policy and what it should include. For a sample policy you can tailor to your company's needs (along with policies on email, Internet use, social media, and more), pick up a copy of Smart Policies for Workplace Technologies, by Lisa Guerin (Nolo).
Dialing and talking on a cell phone can be distracting. According to a year-long study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, almost 80% of the crashes the study recorded involved some form of driver distraction or drowsiness. The number one source of driver distraction? Using a cell phone.
Recognizing this, a number of states limit the use of cell phones while driving. These laws take several forms: Some require drivers to use a hands-free device if they want to talk on the phone, some prohibit younger or less experienced drivers from using any type of cell phone, and some allow officers to cite drivers for using a hand-held cell phone if the driver is pulled over for another offense.
If your employees use cell phones -- whether their own phones or phones issued by the company -- for work, you should have a policy prohibiting them from doing so while driving. Even if your state doesn't restrict cell phone use by drivers, studies have repeatedly shown that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. And, if an employee causes an accident while doing business on a cell phone, your company could be held liable for damages. Consider these examples:
Your policy on employee use of cell phones should:
Of course, there are other matters you may want to include in an employee cell phone policy, from appropriate use of company-owned phones to rules for using personal cell phones at work.