You take all kinds of precautions to create a safe, efficient work environment for your employees. However, when it comes to workplace safety, you can't just look out for big risks such as power lines and improper PPE; you also have to be aware of seemingly small issues--like distractions on the job. Here's what to know about distractions, the trouble they can cause, and how to eliminate them.
The Danger of Distractions on the Job
Distractions are a growing part of modern life. Even at home on your personal computer, researching a new product or reading reviews for a movie, you'll likely be distracted from your task by ads, ringing phones, cars honking outside, and maybe even the TV playing in the background.
The same is true on the job--but at a construction site or other hands-on workplace, these distractions can have far more serious consequences. Let's break down what these distractions look like and the trouble they can cause:
Examples of Distractions
- Electronics: As electronics like tablets and smart watches become more capable, they also pose increasing risks of disruption. Even phones can be both tools and distractions, making it difficult to identify where the benefits end and the dangers begin.
- Chatter: While workplace safety should certainly make room for fellowship and cooperation among employees, there also needs to be a limit to the amount of socializing allowed on the job. That's because idle chatter can quickly become a distraction, whether workers are engaging in it themselves or just able to hear it across the work site.
- Overconfidence: Task repetition can lead to overconfidence--a tendency to believe that the work is automatic and thus requires less focus. This can quickly become a distraction from proper technique and even workplace safety regulations.
- Pressure: With deadlines looming or high expectations keeping workers alert, it's easy to let the pressure become a disruption. Even the need to comply with workplace safety rules can increase stress levels and cause distractions.
Outcomes of Distracted Work
While different disruptions have different outcomes--especially depending on the employee, task, and inherent risk level--it's important to understand how these possibilities impact workplace safety:
- Accidents: Distracted work is often low-quality work. That means a step could be skipped or a regulation overlooked, easily leading to accidents on the job--and that can cause property damage, injuries, and potentially even death.
- Reduced productivity: While not a safety risk, reduced productivity can interrupt the functions of the entire work site, potentially causing issues and other distractions (like increased pressure).
- Complacency: When employees multitask or allow distractions to become part of their everyday work environment, they may become complacent. They could get into bad habits, such as regularly checking their phones, which quickly becomes a workplace safety hazard.
Eliminating Distractions to Improve Workplace Safety
Although some distractions are part of everyday life, others can be controlled and limited with the right approach. Here are a few key tips for managing distractions and increasing workplace safety:
Enroll in training courses.
Workplace safety training is an excellent way to filter out disruptions. It doesn't just help you identify risks and vulnerabilities in your workplace; it also gives employees the resources they need to increase their focus--and an uninterrupted learning environment in which to practice these good habits.
Use breaks effectively.
Breaks are an important part of workplace safety for multiple reasons, but when you think of them as a tool to help eliminate disruptions, they become even more effective. For example, you might encourage employees to do all their texting during breaks or give them a quiet place to socialize so they don't have to chatter on the job. You can also utilize multiple shorter breaks of a few minutes at a time to help workers "reset" their brains and return refreshed and focused.
While you likely can't shift an employee's entire job, you can help them switch up their tasks (or the order in which these tasks are completed) to help eliminate complacency. This helps keep workers focused on their responsibilities instead of feeling like their work is almost automatic.
Talk to workers.
If you're not in a worker's shoes, you may not know the types of distractions they face every day. Talk to your teams to find out what interrupts their work and how you can help make the environment more productive in ways that support rather than stifle them.
Workplace safety isn't always about big, obvious risks; sometimes it could be as small as creating regulations around smartphone use. That's because distractions can, in some cases, be just as dangerous as other workplace risks--which means you must be equally vigilant in identifying and addressing them.
If you need help increasing workplace safety, start by contacting us to learn more about workplace safety training.