Distractions have high safety cost
Jonathan Hart observes the waterjet machine as it cuts through a piece of metal at Anniston Army Depot. Being distracted from the task at hand can be dangerous when working in the industrial areas of the installation.

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Distractions are everywhere and cost Anniston Army Depot more and more every day.

When people are distracted, they fail to see hazards that can cause injuries, loss to property and even death.

In 2009, distracted drivers contributed to more than 5,400 traffic fatalities, accounting for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities that year, according to the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It is evident, from our accident data analysis that distractions cost ANAD and our employees dearly, especially when we are working to achieve the VPP Star and compete in the world market.

Ricky Cline of the depot's Directorate of Public Works understands the danger inattention can cause. Many pieces of equipment in DPW's machine shop require employees to pay careful attention not only to what the equipment is doing, but also to the positioning of their hands.

One such machine, a waterjet, uses sand and high-pressure water to cut metal up to 12 inches thick.

"If an employee were to run their hand under the stream, they would lose their fingers," said Cline.

There are many different types of distractions, including visual, manual and cognitive.

Visual distractions can be as simple as the sun shining through a window, distracting attention from tasks or clutter in a work area or on a desk.

If a work area is clean and uncluttered, it is much harder to be distracted by surroundings and much easier to handle the tasks at hand. We all know a clean and uncluttered work area is a much safer work area.

Manual distractions, such as using a cell phone while performing a task can cost too.

If you are performing a task requiring both hands, it is extremely difficult to hold a phone and perform that task.

No one likes to have a discussion with someone who is only half involved. If you must use your cell phone during work hours, please do it when that use won't affect the quality of your work or wait until break or lunch.

It is really hard to do two things at one time and do them well. Not only your safety is in question but also America's warfighter who will be using the equipment repaired here.

Cline recommends employees in all shops take note whenever their coworkers show signs of being distracted.

"If you see someone doing something that isn't safe, tell them," he said.

Cognitive distractions are sometimes the hardest to control. Whether thinking about the potential furlough, how much work there is to be done, vacation or an argument, clearing our minds for work can sometimes be difficult. A clear mind can function and produce much more efficiently.

There are definitely distracting factors in the workplace; however, more occupational hazards are born from unsafe acts than from unsafe conditions. We should keep our minds clear, our attention on our job and continue to be the best we can be. Our warfighters depend on us!

Page last updated Thu June 6th, 2013 at 00:00