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Mobile Device Distraction Is Not Just a Road Problem

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Whether on an active construction site, in a fast-paced shop, or in any situation where several activities are taking place simultaneously, attention from everyone is key to helping keep a work environment safe.  

Distractions on the job can have catastrophic consequences. And while distractions are all around, there is one type that can be easily eliminated: mobile devices. 

The Myth of Multitasking
Safety-minded businesses generally take the necessary step of prohibiting mobile device use while operating machinery or while in areas where potentially hazardous activities are taking place. But without providing context, you run the risk of an employee ignoring the rule and causing an otherwise preventable disaster. 

Tell your employees this simple fact: People cannot multitask. Sure, the human brain can switch swiftly from task to task. However, it can’t focus on more than one task at a time, even though it appears that way to an outside observer.  

Imagine a forklift moving a heavy load. The driver can be doing everything correctly — sounding the horn at intersections, driving at a reasonable speed, scanning his or her path for obstructions, etc. — but if other people in the area have their heads down, reading a text message or checking the weather, there’s no telling what could happen. 

Hands-Free, but Not Worry-Free
With increased awareness of the dangers new technology can present, solutions like hands-free accessories have popped up. But the problem is far from solved. Much of the research on using hands-free technology has focused on use while driving, but the lessons learned are easily transferrable to nearly any situation. Even with a Bluetooth headset in his or her ear, a mobile device user is still distracted.  

Removal: The Best Solution
The best practice is to eliminate the temptation to use mobile devices altogether and require your employees to either keep their phones in their pockets or, better yet, store them away from the hustle and bustle of the work site. 

Practice what you preach. Job site foremen, managers, and other authority figures should model safe behavior, signaling to employees that casual use of mobile devices without a business purpose has no place on the job. 

Keeping attention on this important topic is key. Post signs, dedicate a safety meeting to the subject — do whatever you can to let your employees know that mobile devices can be a threat to the safety of everyone on the site. 


This publication is intended to provide general information and recommendations regarding risk prevention only and should not be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations herein may help reduce, but are not guaranteed to eliminate, any or all risk of loss. The information presented may be subject to, and is not a substitute for, any laws or regulations applicable to your business. Qualified counsel should be sought regarding questions specific to your circumstances. © 2020 Federated Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.  

Posted In: ACCA Now, Safety

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