Mobile devices have infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives. What started as a simplistic, wireless telephone has now transformed into a hub for information, communication, entertainment, work, health services, and more. Some argue this has led to a dependency, while others claim it is merely an evolution of technology and how we interact with it.
The element that is perhaps the trickiest to navigate is the work component of mobile device usage. Many employers view mobile devices as a distraction that can drain employee time and productivity if not used according to company policy. That can have real bottom line impacts. However, when used as intended in work environments, the flexibility mobile devices provide – and the richness in features and functionality they put at employees’ fingertips – is hard to argue.
Let’s start at the base level: mobility. By definition, mobility means the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. That’s crucial for the range of industries where workers don’t tend to be stationary at a desk, such as in construction, or warehouse and logistics, or in service businesses like pest control. Workers are inherently deskless and their movements are ever-changing throughout a given shift.
Alongside that, mobility is driven by technology. To create a worksite that is more efficient and productive, businesses have incorporated tablets, smartphones, and other devices to replace more traditional work processes while also aiding workers in staying on top of maintenance, equipment, work details, and communication with their peers and supervisors.
But with the use of any technology in a work setting comes some level of risk. So how can environmental health & safety (EHS) professionals implement critical technologies that help their workers work while also ensuring they aren’t putting themselves or others in risky situations, such as checking an alert or notification on their phone while operating heavy equipment?
Manage mobile device usage
EHS leaders are recognizing the positive outcomes that can come from transforming job safety processes and making workflow processes more mobile. One of the ways EHS managers can better ensure workers are adhering to appropriate use of mobile devices, according to company policy, is through Contextual Mobility Management. This considers what a worker is doing, where they are, what’s going on around them, the time of day, workgroup, etc. and enables mobile device access and permissions to adjust according to the individual user’s context.
For example, if a worker is driving between one worksite and another, a contextual mobility management solution would recognize that the user is behind the wheel and would automatically restrict the employee’s access to apps or content that could be dangerous and distracting, such as FaceTime. They would still be able to access a GPS app, music on their phone, and other tools deemed safe within that context if allowed by the company’s policy. Once the vehicle was turned off and the worker had arrived at their destination, the mobile device would return to its full functionality.
Businesses that bolster their EHS programs with mobile policy enforcement that is dynamic in nature are the best suited to both empower workers to be productive and have a good level of flexibility in their work environment while also increasing safety measures.
Investing in a solution is only the beginning, though. For an EHS program with a mobile element to be truly successful, the company must engage the employee to realize proper adherence and compliance. In a national workforce survey, 56% of those polled responded that they believed they had a right to use their mobile device on the job. With that in mind, employers shouldn’t close their workers off from the benefits they receive via technology. Allowing mobile device usage, when appropriate, is key to achieving better performance and business outcomes.
Today’s modern EHS mobility program must understand that workers are not static, and device management must then be dynamically enforced with permissions adjusting as a worker’s environment changes. This means mapping out when and where risks are most significant in a work environment and eliminating those hazards altogether. It is only then that true workforce mobility comes to life and the myriad benefits of mobile device usage across the workforce come to light.
EHS professionals can equip their teams with the right tech tools and strategies to get the job done without those things being a source of risk. Mobility and safety aren’t mutually exclusive and shouldn’t be treated that way when developing an EHS program.