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The pains of distraction


Most everyone accomplishes some particular task while on ‘auto-pilot’; something so routine that you only apply a small part of your thinking capacity to it. Your mental image of the outcome is predetermined even though there are specific details involved. Unless a distraction occurs and interrupts the sequence causing a change in the routine. That may be the vulnerable moment when an injury happens.

The topic of distractions causing a change of focus arose when a classmate mentioned getting their fingers caught in the car door. They described that their seatbelt was sandwiched in the door frame, not allowing the door to completely close. They raised the seatbelt with one hand to lift it out of the way and closed the door with the other. Unfortunately, the raised hand got pinched in the door. It was a routine event that had a distraction in it - a change of focus that led to a couple of pinched fingers.

Now, think about your work day, your worksite and how many events you perform in a ‘routine’ manner. Some task that you may not put much thought into completing. If an incident happens we say, “I just wasn't thinking about it” or “I’ve done it this way for years” and never had a problem before.

Safety people are aware of the raise of incidents that occur before and after holidays, weekends, vacations, or personal events that cause workers to lose focus on their jobs. Workplace events such as a possible lay-off or restructuring of work groups can also keep worker minds off the given task.

Especially during an emotional distraction (9/11 comes to mind) and the workforce does not pay attention to their duties. Many workplaces suspended operations and offered counselors for their staff. A supervisor said it was better to lose a day of production than to lose a worker.

It is not an easy thing to ask workers to put aside their thoughts or worries and to concentrate on the job at hand. As the distractions tend to occupy our thoughts, the focus to the job slips and it puts us at risk.

Distractions are a part of our everyday work experience, whether it’s a welcomed interruption or something else, we need to keep our attention to the job. When we forget what our hands and feet are doing the potential of them wandering astray increases. You should always be aware of your surroundings and what you are stepping onto or where you place your hands.

When you maintain control of your work area it allows you to put things in a safe configuration before you respond to the distraction.

And may also save you the painful awareness caused by those pinched fingers.


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