Industry News

The mobile phone ? Is it a curse or a blessing in disguise?

In 1987 we saw the launch of the “brick”, at a cost of $4250 each, working on the first cellular network in Sydney. It was deemed a novelty and statements for this new technology were made along the lines of “will only suit the yuppies, big business and bankers of the world”.
Little did we know!
My first phone was in-car only, with a portable pager, then an analogue portable, a smaller version of a brick.
The cellular phone has changed the quarrying industry dramatically. I recall visiting quarry sites and if the quarry foreman or supervisor was not in the main office or weighbridge, the secretary would call him on the two-way radio to find out where he was. If they didn’t answer the radio call, then good luck!
At that time, communication was by landline, telex, curly fax paper, letters or two-way radio. We had extra staff to help us handle all this and the business of the day.
Since then things have changed a lot, technology hasn’t stopped and now we have the smartphone. In fact, Australia has grabbed the smartphone like no other country and our networks are constantly getting updated to handle more data faster.
Now the quarry manager has a phone that receives emails, calls and business and production data anywhere, any time. I would suggest most of the site secretaries have since been made redundant and that fax machines are also on the way out.
Our employees also have the same smartphones. Add in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on and we have created a new problem. We already have laws governing the use of mobiles while driving the car, yet we see huge numbers of people being charged with texting/talking on phones while in control of a vehicle without a hands-free kit. I think it’s likely mobiles could be banned or blocked in cars in the future if the practice doesn’t stop.
Likewise, we have the OHS risks of our employees driving mobile plant using mobiles. For operators with business phones/emails, they never stop! Some of us can go on leave, turn the phone off, come back to work and delete the lot but for others it’s not really a holiday because you get that email, phone call or text, or you go on your phone daily to clear out as much as possible of the “email mountain” so it isn’t so big when you get back to work. Then, for those of us with “responsible charge”, that dreaded message about an incident or accident will catch you anywhere, any time.
I don’t have the solution – but I am raising an issue that we have created. We may well have to change how we do business if mobiles are banned when driving a car. We may also have to deal with stress-related issues from our managers or supervisors, as they are constantly available and the smartphone increases that pressure.
As I write this, my daughter has just gone on a 10-day sailing voyage on the tall ship Young Endeavour. The rules of the boat are that all phones must be handed in on boarding and they are given back at the end of the voyage. Now that sounds like bliss!
Until next month, stay safe!
John Stanton
Institute of Quarrying Australia

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