Workplace Distraction Hazards

In a perfect world, employees don’t worry about breaking their arm, falling off scaffolds, or catching a lung disease. In a perfect world, they would be provided with excellent training, not just once, but regularly. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about hazards at all. Besides being comfortable and self-cleaning, PPE could be worn in a matter of seconds and would have built-in chemical and radiation detectors. In a perfect world, when a vehicle was about to hit an employee or fire threatened to incinerate them, a bubble, from their PPE, would suddenly encompass them and keep them safe. Being resistant to fire, chemical toxins, harmful gases, and all the negative vibes of the world, the bubble would be the ultimate life and limb saver for the employee on the job. Maybe that’s taking it a bit too far, but you get the idea. All employees, whether they know it or not, wish for a job where they are provided with adequate training and PPE to keep them safe from the hazards in their workplace.

But even in a perfect world, any appropriate training or top-of-the-line PPE would be useless if a worker couldn’t manage one of the most threatening factors on the job: Distractions. Statistics show that distractions are a major contributor to many workplace injuries and fatalities.

Let’s briefly look at the 5 most common distractions on the job:

1.    Mental distractions and inattentionHave you ever replayed in your mind unpleasant scenes from home while operating equipment? Or perhaps fantasized about how events will play out concerning your upcoming big weekend plans? Maybe you’ve chatted with a coworker while performing a hazardous task. Mental distractions often lead to inattention, and that could lead to you or a coworker being injured or killed. Whether you are worrying, daydreaming, or just chatting, mental distractions can be just as dangerous as working with electricity or highly flammable materials. Avoid falling into mental distractions. Stay focused on your work.

2.    Poor housekeeping – Visual clutter can easily be translated into mental clutter. Frustration from not being able to find something due to a messy workplace can lead to overlooking a safety issue or make you angry enough to resort to aggression or violence. Keep work areas clean and clear of clutter, organize equipment and materials, and keep them in their place. Remember, too, that poor housekeeping says a lot about your attitude towards safety, quality, and productivity. Messy workspace also may give others the impression you are slothful.

3.    Machinery – Make sure you perform work at a safe distance from machines, heavy equipment, and electrical hazards. They can impede your maneuverability, hearing, and vision which could cause a mishap or injury due to entrapment in moving parts or a slip, trip, and fall.

4.    Hearing – Wear earplugs or muffs when working around loud machinery or equipment. But always ask your supervisor if it is permissible to listen to music or podcasts with earphones while working. It could be a distraction that could be fatal. No music or story is worth your life.

5.    Long Unkempt Hair – Many accidents are caused by somebody getting hair caught in machinery or simply attempting to fix their hair while operating equipment. Loose and flowing hair can get in your face and obstruct vision or become a distracting annoyance causing a worker to perform an unsafe task. Tie long hair back, wear a hat, or get a haircut.

In a perfect world, distractions don’t exist, but since we’re stuck in an imperfect universe, all we can do is our job and do it safely to the best of our ability. We can try to help our coworkers to do the same. While some factors in the workplace can play a role in causing distractions, the fact remains that more workplace hazards spring from unsafe acts than from unsafe conditions.

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