Cell phone use in the workplace and workplace accidents

Apr 17, 2023

The recent decision of the Court of Appeals of Santiago delimited the scope of the employer’s liability and the expected conduct of a worker.

One of the usual issues of labor conflict is related to accidents occurring in the work environment, by workers, in which, subsequently, a compensation system is demanded for the alleged fault of the employer in the origin of this contingency.

This problem is aggravated with the massification of technological elements during the working day, which may affect the concentration of the worker at the time of performing his duties or moving within the organization.

The case we are commenting on in this opportunity is related to the accident suffered by a worker, who fell from a loading dock while she was looking at her cell phone.

Hence, the controversy lay in determining the degree of liability of the employer, in terms of being owed a duty of care with respect to all its employees, or if this fact was due to a reckless conduct for which the company is not responsible.

In this recent case, the Court of Appeals of Santiago (Case No. 1297-2022) determined that the employer was not at fault, reasoning that “in the present case, the judgment established that the worker did not go to her workplace, but to another sector and without being attentive when she walked along a corridor in the docks sector, which was wide and clear of objects, She did not pay attention to the existing conditions of the place because she kept her eyes totally focused on an electronic device and not on the corridor through which she was walking, so that even if the employer had used the necessary safety measures, the accident would still have occurred because the worker was not attentive to them“.

Thus, regarding the safety mandate that the employer must comply with in the specific case, the court concluded that “it is possible to establish that the necessary conditions related to hygiene and safety were complied with, tending to prevent the accident that affected the physical integrity of the worker from occurring in the workplace, or on the occasion thereof, It is a different matter that, in spite of complying with and maintaining the necessary conditions to prevent the accident from occurring, the worker walked to a place other than her workplace, without paying attention to the traffic conditions at the time, fixing her eyes only on her cell phone and not on the road“.

This is an interesting pronouncement, highly contingent to the problems that nowadays occur in the workplace and that delimits the scope of the employer’s liability, as well as the diligence and conduct expected from a worker.

For more information on these topics, please contact our #azLabor group:

Jorge Arredondo | Partner | jarredondo@az.cl

Jocelyn Aros | Senior Associate | jaros@az.cl

Felipe Neira | Associate | fneira@az.cl

Alejandra Figueroa | Associate | afigueroa@az.cl

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