Don’t Attract Fatal Distractions,
By Carl Potter, CSP, CMC and Deb Potter, PhD
injuries cost over $50 billion annually, according to the National
Safety Council, so they’re a major drain on profits across
industries. On the human level, when co-workers, family or members of
our community are hurt or killed at work, the loss can be devastating.
investigations usually reveal that injuries occur when something or
someone distracts a worker on the job. He or she then hurries, takes a
shortcut or decides not to follow safe work procedures, often
resulting in significant personal injury as well as destruction of
equipment and property.
bright side, you can
eliminate most workplace injuries from your company. Managers and
supervisors have a significant impact on worker safety and have a
moral and legal obligation to provide a safe workplace. By identifying
employee distractions and knowing what you can do, you can help
workers avoid the devastation of an injury or fatality in your workplace. Consider these five fatal distractions and how to
Distraction of Production: Employees face a tough dilemma when
they feel pressured to complete work but don’t feel as if they
have enough time. Often, they’ll take shortcuts so they can
finish their assigned tasks in time, and these shortcuts are
fertile ground for accidents. To alleviate this distraction,
consider the following:
If your employees complain that they cannot get
the work done in the time allowed, stop the job and listen to
their concerns. You may need to allow more time or add more
resources to the job.
Collaborate with your employees to come up with
plans that allow them to get the work done safely.
Distraction of Time: The distraction of time occurs when the
clock determines workers’ decisions about whether to do a job
safely or to complete it by a deadline. Some companies have
policies that limit overtime pay. When these policies are
inflexible and the production requirements are stringent,
employees and supervisors feel bound to the clock. The tyranny of
the timepiece also occurs when workers decide that they want to
finish the work during a certain timeframe, perhaps because they
do not want to work overtime or they have other work that they
want to move on to. To alleviate this distraction, consider the
Ensure your employees know that no job is so
important that they should take short-cuts in order to complete
the work in a timely manner.
Talk to your employees frequently about how
working safely actually saves
Discuss how much time an injury involves with
investigations, lost work time and reports, not to mention the
impact on worker morale.
Distraction of Management: Management can have a positive or
negative impact on employee safety. When managers, supervisors and
employees do not share common beliefs about the importance of
safety, inconsistent communications result. Research shows that
employees pay attention to whatever management pays attention to.
If employees constantly hear about the need to reduce costs,
increase production and improve quality while hearing little or
nothing about safety, they will focus, like management, on
safety. To alleviate this distraction, consider the following:
Distraction of Money: Workers believe that the budget drives
all corporate decisions. They may be right. If employees receive
less training than they should have, and aging equipment is not
maintained or replaced because budgets are tight, the number of
recordable injuries goes up. To alleviate this distraction,
consider the following:
Review your budget to make sure you have funding
for unexpected issues that relate to employee safety.
Give workers, even in the lowest levels of your
organization, the authority to tap into these funds when
Distraction of Personal Issues: Personal matters present huge
distractions to employees. Employees often bring to work their
off-the-job stress from family issues, financial concerns or other
personal problems. Without realizing it, stressed and preoccupied
employees can put themselves and others at risk of workplace
injuries. You may find it difficult to recognize when an employee
is distracted by such matters, so take time to get to know all of
the workers around you and pay attention to individual responses,
reactions and attitudes. To alleviate this distraction, also
consider the following:
When you suspect that employees are distracted
by personal issues, take them aside and discuss your
If necessary, temporarily reassign a worried
worker who performs work that requires concentration to remain
Assure employees who are having personal crises
that you have their best interests in mind and that your goal is
to return them to normal duties as soon as possible, once the
crisis has passed.
Think Safety for a Successful Future: As a manager or supervisor,
you can have a tremendous influence on employee safety. You simply
need to make a focused effort to include safety into every aspect of
your role. By adopting and demonstrating a personal commitment to
workers’ safety, communicating the importance of safety relative to
production and quality, and recognizing when employees are distracted
on the job, you can have a very positive impact on your
organization’s safety performance.
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and Deb Potter.
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