Can you hear me now?

That catchphrase used by Verizon has become part of our culture. Cell-phone use has expanded into every activity in our lives from emergency communication to picking products from a grocery shelf. It sometimes seems people have no idea what to do with a spare moment other than make a cell-phone call, text, listen to music or surf the Web. It is estimated at the end of 2012 there were 8 billion cell-phone users worldwide.

Using a cell phone can be a significant distraction whether you are the one doing the talking/texting/perusing or are in the presence of someone doing the same.

Being distracted while driving, while operating tools and equipment, when walking across the street, when in public or at work increases the risk of crashes, injuries (or worse) and mistakes.

Researchers have compared the level of cell-phone distraction to a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 (which in most states means you are legally intoxicated).

As such, people react significantly slower to unexpected events when having a phone conversation or texting and are, for a large part of the conversation or text, unaware of movements around them.

Listening to music with or without earbuds is also a distraction while at work. It reduces the ability to hear oncoming machinery, people calling for help or needing assistance and takes away from the task you are performing.

We all understand cell phones have become a way of life. However, their use in the workplace is a distraction and prevents you from being aware and safe 100% of the time. 

Here is an excellent example of a company policy on cell-phone use and the use of electronic devices in general in the workplace:

  • If you receive a call when working and must have the conversation you need to stop what you are doing and take the call in a safe area where there is no material moving machinery. Your supervisor will speak to you if there is abuse of this accommodation.
  • Texting while working is also a distraction and we ask that you refrain from texting while working. If it is important and you must respond you need to stop what you are doing and return the text in a safe area where there is no material moving machinery.  Your supervisor will speak to you if there is abuse of the accommodation 
  • Using earbuds (even one earbud) and listening to music is a distraction while working. In order for each person to hear and be aware of what is going on around them, we must ask that you refrain from listening to music whether it be with our without earbuds. There will be no exceptions.

These are just a few suggestions to assist companies trying to assimilate into the evolving world of technology. Does banning the use of cell phones and electronic devices work better for your company? There is no right or wrong answer. If you do not currently have a policy in place, it may be inevitable that you will in the near future.



This article was originally titled “Don’t get distracted” in the February 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.