Distractions are normal or expected (at work just as in life). The important thing is how well we manage them. Distractions in an office can cause decreased productivity and reduced revenue. But on perilous jobs, where workers are exposed to potentially life-threatening situations, a distraction can cause an injury or fatality. When interruptions or distractions aren’t managed, they can erode one’s ability to focus and may lead to poor judgment.

Workplace distractions range from self-distractions (checking email or social media) to external annoyances. Some distractions are more impactful than others, and if a staff member seems distracted, there are things you can do to bring them back to focus and help them avoid distractions.

Being on Task is More Important Than Being Present

Just because your staff is physically present doesn’t mean they are actively contributing. Presenteeism can cost companies just like absenteeism. On dangerous jobs, the stakes are even higher because of the risk of injury or death. A distraught, exhausted, or sick employee can cause problems for everyone present.

Encourage Staff to Turn Off or Mute Non-Work Notifications

Technology must be utilized in the right way to help staff stay on task. Otherwise, it can be an addictive distraction. For example, a personal email, text message, or social media notification will automatically draw an employee’s attention. If they respond immediately, it just adds to their loss of focus, increasing the risk of an injury or fatality. According to a 2018 Udemy survey, 78% of respondents said that using technology for personal reasons is the biggest workplace distraction.

Health and safety managers cannot dictate when and how the staff will use their own devices. What you can do is educate them on how they should use their personal devices in ways that don’t lead to increased injury risks. Encourage them to allot a short break to answer messages and check updates, and ask them to turn notifications off during their work.


  1. Keep the workplace clutter-free. The more visual clutter your staff has to deal with, the more likely they are to get distracted.
  2. Encourage personnel to use technology in a way that increases their focus and presence, such as setting reminders for things they need to do during a workday.
  3. Discourage chatting at the wrong time. Camaraderie between employees should never be discouraged, but unless it is about work, talking with workers who operate machines should not occur while they are operating the equipment.


Do everything in your power to minimize distractions throughout the workplace.

Tags: safety management, workplace safety, inspection basics, equipment safety


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