Livestreaming: A New Occupational Safety Risk

December 11 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway

A developing trend is creating additional risk at work. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube are all examples of online platforms that allow users to livestream while working, providing an additional source of income, and likely vanity. But what are the risks?

This summer, one TikTok user was fired from his position at Home Depot. While live streaming, a customer approaches asking for help. To access her account, he asks for her phone number, which the customer provided, all captured during this live streaming event, leaking customer information online.

Screenshot of tik tok video with home depot employee.

Also this summer, the Ohio State Medical Board ruled to permanently revoke Katharine Roxanne Grawea's medical license and fine her $4,500. This was a result of the board's investigation into her actions as a plastic surgeon, livestreaming operations, and interacting with TikTok users who posted questions during her surgeries.

Screenshot of a blonde woman looking stage right.
Source: Courtney Hergesheimer/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK

Understandably, these two events became newsworthy. What isn't making its way into the news yet is the increase in occupational safety risks employees face as they livestream while performing work, and is it within the company's rights to fully ban employees from doing this?

Below are a sample of screenshots recently captured on the platform TikTok.

If this concerns you, it should. Distractions and performing simultaneous tasks are known error traps that, with the capabilities of livestream, increase exposure to the company, the quality of the work being performed, individuals performing the livestream, and any individuals around them.

For risk, security, sensitivity, or intrinsic safety reasons, some companies do not allow phones or cameras to be used inside their location or operations. What is your company policy on livestreaming while at work or, more broadly, while work is being performed?

A potential complication to company policies in the United States against Livestreaming is First Amendment rights. In February this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that a policy by a North Carolina police department not allowing police to be livestreamed during traffic stops is a violation of First Amendment rights. "Creating and disseminating information is protected speech under the First Amendment," noted Judge Julius N. Richardson.

Also concerning is the often-expressed viewpoint of employees who feel actions demonstrate their employer puts profit over safety. If the goal of an individual livestreaming as they perform work for their employer is income or exposure, isn't that self-imposed profit over safety? Or at least vanity over safety?

With input from your general counsel, this is a topic employers are encouraged to explore further. I predict this trend will continue to spread, as will the associated risks. It is just a matter of time until they too become newsworthy.

Shawn M. Galloway

Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.

Subscribe to our newsletter