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Health & Safety

Construction Workplace Distractions

by: Ron Pettit, MS, The Harry A. Koch Co, Loss Control Specialist

Some workplace distractions and interruptions are unavoidable but others if not properly controlled or regulated could lead to injuries, lost productivity and a decrease in worker morale.

Work interruptions are a distraction that can result in work errors or accidents. Before addressing or responding to another person, workers should shut down or disengage any work tool, equipment or processes. Whether you’re worrying, daydreaming, or chatting, mental distractions can be likened to hazards or operating machines and equipment with no safety guards.

The National Safety Council (NSC) warns the prevalence of motorists using cell phones while driving has made distracted drivers another threat to workers on foot. The NSC estimates 23 percent of passenger vehicle crashes—1.3 million crashes per year—can be attributed to cell phone talking and texting while driving. Allowing employees to conduct hands-free or handheld business on cell phones while driving represents acceptance of a 300 percent increase in crash risk, according to the NSC. (NSC August 2011)

Talking on a cellphone at a construction site can be a dangerous way of life. If you are involved in serious labor and you’re not devoting full attention to the task because you're on a cell phone, structural integrity may be compromised and costly damage in money and lives may occur. Talking on your cell is one thing, but talking on your cell in a moving vehicle or heavy piece of equipment on a construction site can be devastating and should be avoided at all costs.

The cell phone can be invaluable in case of an emergency otherwise they should only be used during breaks or after their work shift. Banning cell phones on worksites can improve worker concentration and increase productivity and team work between workers. It can be very frustrating to be working with someone and they are talking or texting on their cell phone.

Accidents on construction sites seem to have ripple effects and the actions of one person could seriously harm another. Also if a worker makes an error it can negatively affect the entire job. Other than lowering the productivity of the worker, conducting excessive conversations on your cell phone can be a distraction to other workers trying to concentrate on their tasks.

A lack of concentration when it is needed most is what normally results in fatal consequences.