The iGR report predicts that subsequent versions of the LTE standard, such as LTE-Advanced, will serve as the bridge to 5G wireless networks. (Image courtesy of japanexperterna.se and edited from the original by Electronic Design).

Where Does Worker Safety Begin and End?

Aug. 20, 2019
Contextual AI enhances safety policies in today’s tech-centric business environment.

Leading construction companies are recognizing the cost and productivity benefits offered by innovative tech solutions. As the industry approaches a digital revolution, the need to thoughtfully and effectively manage the serious risks associated with mobile devices and smartphones being used on the job is now more important than ever.

Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous and prominent distractions in a commercial or grey fleet vehicle. According to the National Safety Council, using a cellphone while driving leads to 1.6 million car accidents per year. With more than 40 states addressing the dangers of mobile device usage by banning texting while driving, ensuring employees are following the law while also guaranteeing the company is in compliance with OSHA standards is vital.

OSHA’s standard for all companies whose employees drive as part of their job requirements is straightforward, “it is [the company’s] responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against texting while driving.” Despite the fact that most companies have enacted mobile device management and distracted driving policies to protect their drivers, vehicles and the communities that they serve, their efforts often fall short.

Distractions related to employees using mobile devices behind the wheel can lead to a range of losses including a company’s reputation, the driver or innocent bystander being seriously injured or potentially losing their lives, and additional expenses and missed revenue due to out-of-service vehicles. Furthermore, employers assume liability for a crash if the driver is a commercial license holder who was either texting or talking on a cell phone with another employee about a work-related issue at the time of the accident.

Fleet managers find enforcement of mobile device policies difficult, if not impossible, due to lack of visibility, system workarounds navigated by employees and loopholes within the policies. Although traditional mobile device management technology is an option, it has inherent limitations and isn’t always effective in enforcing usage requirements. An effective management platform must meet three key requirements within construction and industrial industries:

  1. It must be device agnostic.
  2. It must be contextually aware and able to adjust to changing conditions.
  3. It cannot be easily manipulated by employees or administrators.

To meet these requirements, employers must leverage smart devices to allow them to be as ‘smart’ as possible, such as sensing when a construction worker is straddling a girder on a high-rise building or operating heavy equipment on a busy construction site. A zero-tolerance safety policy that leverages such technology enables enterprises to proactively eliminate worksite liabilities, while simultaneously benefiting from the competitive advantages of the latest construction tech solutions. These are the benefits of a contextual mobile device management  (CMDM) platform.

Residing on a corporate or personal mobile device, CMDM makes it easier for managers to automatically enforce safety policies for mobile devices based upon predetermined standards – including location, time and motion – to address a company’s individual and unique policy needs. Outside of these riskier work environments, the mobile device maintains full accessibility and functionality.

Research shows that drivers of commercial motor vehicles who text are about 23 times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event than those who do not. Ultimately, CMDM allows companies to increase driver safety and proactively eliminate liabilities while improving employee productivity rates and overall fleet efficiency.

This level of protection is what Walsh Construction, the thirteenth largest contractor in the U.S, was looking for to enhance its already robust safety policies about a year ago. As a fourth-generation family-owned company, safety is central – Walsh views it as a responsibility to send employees home the same way they came to work.

“We empower all of our employees, regardless of title, to stop work if they see an unsafe condition or act,” states John Coye, senior safety manager at Walsh. “Our employees have ‘buy-in’ to our safety programs and the associated activity required to demonstrate this including THA, JHA and Work Planning. Our robust training, along with implementing TRUCE’s platform, has assisted us in obtaining a great record for our vehicle fleet.”

During Walsh’s training sessions Coye shares his personal distracted driving story to ensure employees understand the dangers. “I was riding my motorcycle on a four-lane road, three miles from my home when I was struck by a young man that was on his phone pulling out of a gas station. I was thrown from the bike 20 feet into oncoming traffic.” Coye doesn’t remember anything but seeing the driver pull out at the last millisecond, then waking up later in the back of an ambulance being raced to the hospital. 

“The police officer made it very clear the accident would have been a much different scene if I was going just a mile an hour faster or slower; a little slower I would have t-boned him directly and a little faster he would have t-boned me.” According to witnesses at the scene, the driver was on his phone and did not even look either way before blindly pulling out.

Currently, CMDM platforms are operational in Walsh fleets in Chicago, Indiana and Florida. Walsh requires the platform for not only corporate devices, but the personal cell phones of those authorized to operate fleet vehicles as well.

“The roll out of the platform, like anything new, presented some initial discomfort and pushback from employees,” recalls Coye. Most concerns were related to privacy on the employees’ behalf. “When you tell an employee that their employer wants them to download an app onto their personal phone, red flags automatically go up.” Fortunately, CMDM alleviates any privacy concerns that employees may have about their employer’s access to their personal devices, as the technology only manages access to applications and device functionality and does not record any personal information or data.

“After experiencing firsthand that the device is only managing their actions during work hours and in designated locations, such as the company vehicle, their minds were changed within weeks. Most didn’t realize how often they were breaking company policy and safety regulations.”

This is a comment made by the majority of companies utilizing the platform. In today’s tech centric world, most adults view their smart device an average of 52 times a day and don’t realize how connected they are to their device until the constant notifications are no longer there. CMDM empowers both companies and employees to confront those challenges for a safer and more productive work environment.

As a seamless solution, CMDM helps prevent accidents resulting from misuse of mobile devices, assists fleet managers with maintaining positive corporate culture and reputation, and reduces liability concerns. CMDM technology isn’t about controlling end-user devices – it’s about helping companies create safer, more productive workplaces that enable their employees to work better, ultimately boosting bottom line and supporting safer roads.

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