Phil Pinnington, GGF Director of Health and Safety, provides his take on two unique conditions that your employees or colleagues may be suffering from.
If you have seen individuals frantically patting down jackets, bags and pockets to make sure they haven’t lost their precious phone then they may be suffering from a condition called Phonemobia. Then there’s those who suffer for Phantom Phone – when individuals reach for the phone during a conversation because they think it went off. Both are recognised conditions and can be serious.
To be clear, this isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s been around for some years now but only recently is it causing concern to safety professionals. We’re seeing more and more cases where distraction from phones is risking employee’s safety.
Putting this concern in context is quite difficult. In society generally, the number of people hit by motorised vehicles, pushbikes or other people whilst looking at their phones whilst walking has shot up.
In the last 2 years, deaths around the world attributed to what is being called the “scourge of the mobile zombie” has increased. In 2016, 6,000 deaths in the US were linked to this problem. If it’s a cultural problem what right do we, as employers, have to remove an employee’s phone?
The answer is, you don’t have the right, particularly in the world outside work but within paid time you have the moral obligation to do something.
Lots of employers who have industrial processes have instigated a zero tolerance approach to the carrying of mobile phones on the shop floor. It stands to reason and is justified but how it is policed and managed is subject to debate.
I’m of the opinion that as the old adage says, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. Enforcing a rule in a workplace of 20 people is easier than it is in 50 or 100. Human nature is that a supervisor may, make an exception or, turn the other way when someone sneaks the phone in. Whatever the company single rule is this behaviour gives employees a green light to ignore it. There’s a rule but no-one adheres to it which, in essence means there is no rule.
More work has to be done to tackle this, but I believe there are countless examples that employers can bring into dialogue with employees. Those who know me or have read my articles will know I’m a strong believer in influencing change and in turn the group norm. In any business you’re only as weak as your weakest link. Likewise the group norm is influenced by behaviours of one person. If it’s seen as, ‘they get away with it’ then others will inevitably mimic that person’s behaviour.
So, how do you deal with the problem of phones? Firstly make your workers know there’s a problem. By articulating clearly the risk to their safety you are demonstrating your commitment to keeping them safe. We are compiling a toolbox talk on the subject. If you would like a copy please get in touch, simply email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Health and Safety