The holidays mean more traffic, more shopping, and more stuff on the brain. All of that means less focus and vigilance when it comes to safety, both on and off the job. Combine that with the added stress and precautions needed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve got a safety crunch on our hands.
Distraction is one of the leading causes of errors in the workplace. According to a study by the University of Michigan, a distraction of just 2.8 seconds can double the likelihood of making an error. Increase the distraction to 4.4 seconds and the likelihood triples. In many industries, such as the skilled trades, a single error can lead to a serious injury for you and/or your coworkers.
All it takes to avoid dangerous distractions during the holiday season is extra awareness. Take these tips as a starting point for ensuring a happy—and safe!—holiday season.
#1: Keep your eyes, and your mind, on the task.
Most of the time, if you take a moment to reflect on it (preferably before you start the task), you can assess if you’re following good safety habits or not. Do you have the right traction or grip to complete the job safely? Are you placing yourself out of the line of fire? These are common errors of distracted workers.
#2: Don’t skimp on sleep.
The holidays are a busy time, but it’s important to make sleep a priority. When the brain doesn’t get enough rest, cognitive processing slows and life-saving reaction times plummet. Reports show that fatigue-related crashes tend to be much more likely to result in a fatality or severe injury.
#3: Exercise good cell phone habits.
Cell phone use increases over the holidays, whether you’re bouncing gift ideas off mom or checking in with friends, but just make sure when you’re at work, you’re putting work first. A simple solution is to silence your phone during periods at work that require more of your focus.
#4: Don’t fall for a false sense of security.
During the holidays, with the end of the year approaching and a host of other things on our mind, we tend to relax on some of the safety procedures we’ve been trained to follow all year long. Don’t get into bad habits, no matter what time of year it is.
#5: If you’re a supervisor, be extra vigilant.
Those in supervisory roles have an important job this time of year. Pay extra attention on the floor or in the field, and be quick to intervene when you notice bad habits or distracted behavior.
#6: Mask up and keep your distance.
This year’s holiday season has necessitated new safety measures for both work and personal life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that because the virus spreads through respiratory droplets, masks and social distancing are the best ways to keep everyone safe. Make sure to wear your mask, and try to keep a distance of 6 feet between yourself and others whenever possible. Other measures recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) include frequent and thorough hand washing or sanitizing with at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer, and staying home when sick.
Remember that incidents can happen at any time, but especially during the holidays. Follow these safety procedures, plus those that apply to your unique workplace, and make sure everyone gets home safely for the holidays.
- “Considerations for wearing masks,” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html
- COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/covid-19-faq.html#employer
- “Distracted work is a major issue in dangerous industries,” https://thebossmagazine.com/distracted-work/
- “3-second distraction doubles work errors,” https://www.safetynewsalert.com/3-second-distraction-doubles-work-errors/