The Friedman Blog

Posted on 01/09/2013, by Jeremy Edsall

5 Distractions that Cause Workplace Injuries

Construction site safety. Avoid distractions for a safer worksite.


Statistics show that the most threatening factor on the job site are distractions. They come in many forms and are a major culprit in many workplace injuries and fatalities.

Here are 5 kinds of distractions that may put your life on the line:

1. Mental Distractions and Inattention:

Have you ever tried to complete a task when angry? It’s almost impossible to complete even the simplest of tasks when your blood is boiling, heart pounding; you can’t think or see straight. It’s not till you calm down, and eliminate the anger, that you are able to function properly. Everyday thoughts and concerns, good or bad, can have nearly the same effect as anger on our ability to focus completely.

People in general have a lot on their minds. Rehashing an argument you had at home, problems or concerns about finances, or just daydreaming about what you’re going to do after work can lead to inattention. Chatting with a co-worker, laughing and joking while trying to complete a task can also provide enough distraction to cause mistakes or injuries.

The job site can be a busy place full of activity that can quickly lead to injury if you are not focused on your work and those working around you. Especially for those working on or around heavy equipment or dangerous machines, one wrong move can have disastrous results.

Leave your worries behind. Mentally find a place to “put your worries” before you begin work. Tell yourself that your distracting thoughts are under lock and key until you are on a break or have ended work for the day. If you find that a co-worker has become a distraction by constantly wanting to talk or joke inform a supervisor and see if something can be done. Tell the person that you prefer to focus on your work and that you’ll talk when you have a break.

2. Poor Housekeeping

One sure way to improve your mood is to improve your surroundings. Clutter in a person’s home can lead to depression, and the accumulation of it is often a sign that a person may be depressed. On the job site it’s safety that suffers when clutter accumulates. It is a sign that safety is no longer a top priority and it creates another distraction for workers to deal with.

Trying to find tools scattered around or in the midst of garbage and debris not only causes frustration but also wastes time and energy that could be used on the tasks at hand. Take time to clean as you go, put tools back where they belong, and dispose of waste as it accumulates. Visitors to the job site will also have a better opinion of your work if things are kept clean and neat. This goes for your company vehicles as well. Maybe you or someone you know stores everything on the dashboard or seat of the truck. You may know that your screwdriver is somewhere in that mess, but to everyone else you just look like a disorganized mess.

3. Cell Phone Use

Talking or texting on a cellphone easily takes your attention away from other things so using one on a construction site isn't a good idea.

Using a phone while working takes your attention away from your labor and may even compromise the integrity of your work. This could lead to structural failure or damage years later due to poor workmanship.

Your conversation may also be a distraction to those you are working with, slow the pace of the job and cause others to wait for your full attention so the task at hand can be completed.

Your phone conversation might prevent you from recognizing imminent danger putting your life and lives of others at risk.

Workers should never use a cellphone while driving around a construction site. According to different studies on cellphone use while driving, workers are up to 36 times more likely to have an accident while using a cellphone.

4. MP3 Players & Similar Devices

Although working with music can be relaxing, and good for many creative processes, unless you are a budding Picasso working on your masterpiece in a quiet studio it's best to use your ears for hearing and not listening.

Hearing will allow you to sense possible danger, while listening to music will block your ability to hear anything else. Follow your companies guidelines or consult a supervisor if you want to listen to music from headphones while working. In most cases it probably won't be permissible to do so.

If you are trying to block out noise because it is a distraction, or is posing a danger to your hearing, then use appropriate earplugs, or ear muffs to protect your yourself and to stay attentive on your task.

5. Long/Unkempt Hair

I'm reminded of the woman whose long hair was swept up into a conveyor belt she was walking under, which lead to her sustaining a horrific injury. She wasn't being reckless, but it contributed to her accident. Long, loose hair can block your sight, get tangled in power tools and machinery, and can make it harder to work efficiently.

If you have to have long hair keep it tied, covered or tucked under a hat or helmet

A construction site is a busy place full of dangers. They are some of the most dangerous places to work. More than any other industrial setting, you have the greatest chance of injury on a construction site. As a construction worker it is your responsibility to work in a professional and responsible manner. This means following safety guidelines, wearing protective equipment, staying sober / drug free and not engaging in reckless behavior.

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