Thursday, June 2, 2011

Put the Phone Down

(from the April/May 2011 Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

Smart phones bring a new level of control and communication to the foreman on the paving site. With today’s fleet tracking telematics, the foreman or supervisor can touch a button on the phone’s screen and see any number of facts about the haul trucks and tonnages en route to his project.

Think the clouds on the horizon look ominous? Hit the weather app and check into it.

We could brainstorm a hundred reasons to have a smart phone, an iPad and/or walkie talkies on the paving site including communication with the plant operator, DOT inspectors, dispatchers, quality control personnel and other crew members who aren’t close at hand. Those are wise uses of technology for ground personnel at the plant or foremen out on the road.

But smart phones have weaseled their way into dangerous positions in our work zones, too. From paver operators to the folks driving 33-plus horsepower compaction equipment through the work zone, construction personnel are taking risks by playing with technology toys at the worst of times.

When you’re in the control house, on the paver, on the roller, in a haul truck or working in any construction-related capacity, the last thing you need to be doing is sending text messages or visiting with buddies on the phone. You might think you can multi-task with the best of them, but you’re slowing your reaction time and dividing your focus.

I ask you to stop that.

Four or five years ago, would you have stopped the paver at a rest stop, hopped down while it was still running, and made a personal phone call to your wife or CPA or fishing buddy from the pay phone next to the rest room? Of course not.

To leave a paver running while unattended is unheard of. So why would you run a roller while talking on a cell phone to a friend? Why would you run a paver while texting your picks for the next fight to your bookie? Why would you risk quality or safety by dividing your attention between the job you’re being paid an hourly wage to do and personal riffraff?

Don’t try to justify unsafe practices by texting about work, either. If you have information about the equipment you’re operating, the mix you’re laying or the mat you’re compacting to communicate to a supervisor, there are signals in place to get that information across.

Since the dawn of paving, we’ve used flags, lights, whistles, hand signals and our voices to communicate more efficiently than putting a phone to our ears amid the engine noise on a paving project.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood may irritate the stuffins out of me when it comes to his policies on high speed rail and funding, but I have to agree with him on his push to get cell phones out of drivers’ hands. Distracted driving too often results in deaths and injuries that could so easily be prevented. Let’s not get into the habit of distracted paving.

Stay Safe
Sandy Lender (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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