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Mobile devices may increase risk of workers' compensation claims

More companies are offering mobile devices such as cell phones and laptops to employees to increase productivity by allowing them to keep in closer touch with the office and with customers while on the road.

But a problem exists in determining when the workday begins and ends in relation to the use of these devices. And therein lies the possibility of being injured, which has resulted in several workers' compensation claims.

In the past decade, the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule has quickly shifted as more and more employees work from home. With the many technological developments such as smart phones and laptops, employees can work from anywhere.

Nearly everyone has witnessed a motorist traveling on the road surrounded by a laptop, GPS and a phone with a headset plugged into an ear. Is that person using the mobile devices for work or for personal use? If that motorist is in the middle of a conference call for work and gets into a crash, does he or she have a valid workers' compensation claim?

Or what happens if a man is walking down the sidewalk using his phone to text a proposal to a client? While not paying attention, he steps out into traffic and is hit by a bus. Is that a work-related injury?

The pressure of keeping in touch in a global economy may be causing workers to bring their laptops and PDA's home. Over 79 percent of workers report bringing their laptops on vacation. 87 percent say they check emails while they are sick at home.

Is it a matter of creating the right culture in a workplace? If employees feel less pressure to always be available for work, there may be a decrease the number of accidents related to this type of situation. Should employers be setting clear guidelines for using mobile devices outside of the office?

Source: Insurance Journal online, "As More Workers Go Mobile, Workers' Compensation Exposure Grows," Andrew G. Simpson, 01 June 2011

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