Why your farm business needs a Mobile Phone Policy?

The government is looking to tighten up the law regarding mobile phone use when driving. Currently, it is only an offence to be using a hand-held device when performing a function which involves ‘interactive communication’. When the changes take place (this year), a driver holding, touching, or scrolling a phone will be considered to have committed a driving offence.

This is based on ‘hand-held’ devices and will not affect the use of mobile phones held in cradles (such as when being used as a sat-nav).

Not using a mobile phone when driving may seem like common sense but consider a worst-case scenario when an employee pulls out of a gate whilst on their phone and causes an accident resulting in the death of a member of the public. The employee’s defence lawyer would encourage them to deflect blame by saying that they answered their phone as they were in fear of losing their job if they did not. Without a mobile phone policy in place, a farm business would have difficultly proving that they were not in fear of their job. The concept of ‘corporate manslaughter’ could begin to raise its head should the driver be able to deflect blame onto the farm business proprietor.

Whilst all of this is very much a worst-case scenario, the ways to alleviate this risk are easy to put in place.

The most important thing to do is implement a Mobile Phone Policy which outlines your expectations of employees and their use of mobile phones including, but not limited to, when they are driving on public highways. Employees should sign to say that they have read and understood the policy, or a simple multiple-choice quiz is an easy way of proving that they have actually understood it.

One of our clients provides all staff with Driver Handbooks and drivers have to sign to say they have taken receipt of their handbook and understood it. They must keep it in the cab with them at all times. It contains policies such as the Mobile Phone Policy, ‘bump cards’ and driver instructions for emergency response.

If mobile phones are used as means of giving instructions to employees, it is wise to outline in your Mobile Phone Policy or Driver Handbook the procedures for this when an employee is driving on the road. One client has a policy whereby they will call the employee and let it ring twice. The employee is then expected to pull over when it is next safe to do so, switch off the engine and then call back to receive the instructions.

Not abiding to these rules is tantamount to gross misconduct, which is harsh but protects the business and the business owner.

The HSE culture of ‘if it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen’ means that all training on things such as this should be documented, signed by the employee and refreshed periodically. It is a good idea to add coverage of your Mobile Phone Policy to your pre-harvest Health & Safety training to ensure that all members of staff (including seasonal harvest staff) are aware of your expectations of them and the potential implications of not following them.