Distraction in the Workplace: An Avoidable Risk

When most people talk about workplace safety and workplace hazards, they’re referring to environmental, structural, and traffic issues. These might include an absent safety railing on a high ledge, perilously hot ambient temperatures, inadequate noise protection, or poorly maintained machinery. With proper training, most managers and HR pros recognize a standard workplace hazard when they see one (or feel or hear it).

But there’s one workplace problem that doesn’t get as much attention, and is just as likely to cause an accident or injury: distraction. As the saying goes, distracted drivers are as dangerous as inebriated drivers, and the same rule applies to workers. What are you doing to protect your employees from this often preventable hazard? Keep these tips in mind.

Solicit feedback from your teams.

The best way to find out more about the dangers faced by your workers is to simply ask them. Encourage honesty by distributing anonymous surveys and/or maintaining an open door policy so employees can report any problem at any time without fear of judgement or criticism. If any employee in your workplace identifies a potentially dangerous distraction—anything from an overly-bright light fixture to a constantly running TV screen—reward the employee for bringing it to your attention.

Pay close attention to teams who rely on concentration and focus.

If some of your employees are operating potentially dangerous, high speed, or precision machinery, keep a close eye on these employees especially. Enforce regular break periods and rest periods. Deliberately remove anything from the ambient environment that may break their concentration even momentarily. Consider every form of visual and auditory stimulation that comes their way; even a bad smell can derail focus for a crucial second. Reduce these problems at the source.

Coworkers can be the biggest distraction of all.

If your employees work in teams or partner pairs, make sure these pairs are stable and functional. If they aren’t, separate mismatches quickly and rotate pairings on a regular basis. Don’t allow coworkers to threaten each other’s safety, even with well-intended but poorly timed conversation. Provide privacy barriers and sound barriers for work stations that benefit from structural boundaries.

Take all complaints seriously.

Some workers are distracted by sounds and intrusions that don’t bother others. But if an employee complains about a squeaking fan, or flapping tarp, a chatty coworker, a divided responsibility, or an occasional blast of cold air across his or her workstation, don’t dismiss the concern. Address the problem in any way you can; Either eliminate the distraction or shift the employee to another area where the distraction won’t cause an accident.

For more on how to keep your workers safe from all hazards, including innocent distractions, contact the staffing and management experts at Lift Temp.

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