If you supply your workers with company cell phones, laptops, BlackBerries, iPads, or other portable devices, and a worker is injured using the device when doing company business off site or off the clock, you could face a costly Workers Compensation claim.
The increasing use of mobile devices in the workplace is challenging traditional notions of work-related mishaps, creating a significant risk-management exposure for businesses.
Picture a woman in her car on the way to work. She has a laptop open on the passenger seat, a GPS on her windshield, another portable device open on the dashboard, a smart phone in her hand, and earphones in her ears, when she runs off the road and suffers a broken leg. Or picture a man walking down the street after he leaves the office. He’s so engrossed in checking work e-mail and texting on his BlackBerry that he’s oblivious to a crosswalk, stumbles when he hits the curb, falls, and is hit by a car. Both of these people might easily argue that their injuries were work-related.
Before the explosive growth of telecommuting and mobile devices, most employees worked in a defined physical location during a specified time. In 2009, 17.2 million Americans worked from home – a number that’s projected to double by the end of 2012. With mobile devices, people can (and increasingly do) work from: their houses, cars, clients’ locations, subways, libraries, bars, airports, parks – even at the beach; a survey by contact manager program Xobni showed that 59% of Americans check their work e-mail while on vacation.
Many of these workers believe that management expects, or encourages, this type of behavior. Even if this isn’t the case, your business could have some responsibility for incidents resulting from it – just as you might in harassment situations.
The solution: Ask yourself how much risk your business is willing to accept by delivering these mobile devices to employees in the hope of growing productivity. Then work with your human relations department to set “best practices” rules that define the scope and use of this technology away from the workplace – to create a culture that balances your employees’ professional responsibilities with their personal lives. This can present a serious challenge, especially with younger, tech-savvy employees who tend to blur the personal and the professional by using social media on the job, while checking on their work when they’re away from the office.
To learn more about how to protect yourself from this exposure please feel free to get in touch with our risk management professionals.