Hurry: A Barrier to Safety and Productivity

Originally published 11/25/2015

There are many times during a typical work year when workers face the “Hurry-Up Syndrome.” As the deadline looms, workers sometimes ignore good practices for the sake of saving time. But all too often, hurrying to complete a job results in poor work quality or worker injury.

What happens when you rush to finish a job?

  1. Planning suffers. We place too much emphasis on action, rather than planning and thought. Instead of planning ahead and obtaining the proper tools and equipment to do a job correctly and safely, there is a tendency to make do with what you have. Using the wrong tool for a task can injure people and damage equipment. Without proper planning, we often stage materials far from where we will use them. This results in more movement, which increases the opportunity for an accident or injury to occur.
  1. Attention to task suffers. Workers don’t focus on the task at hand. Instead, they are thinking about what still needs to be done and the time deadline. This lack of focus can cause accidents and injuries. Distraction is often the root cause of injury.
  1. Breaking the rules. Looming deadlines can prod workers with the best of intentions, to break the rules in order to complete a task. They respect the procedures for quality work and the safety rules, but in the stress of the moment, they decide cutting corners just this once won’t hurt. An example would be when a worker fails to use the appropriate fall protection equipment because he only intends to be at a certain height for a few minutes. If there is no immediate negative consequence, then he has the tendency to repeat the action. Sooner or later there will be a negative consequence, which could result in damage to or loss of equipment, or cause injury to himself or others.

We cannot totally avoid the “Hurry-Up Syndrome;” however, we can acknowledge the stress for what it is and resolve to do what we know is best for both timely work completion and safety for our co-workers and ourselves.

Download the recording form here.

Distracted Walking: More Serious Than You Think

Almost everyone has heard about the dangers of distracted driving. Distractions may be anything from talking on a mobile phone to interacting with a passenger – anything that moves our attention away from what we’re doing. When this happens, we can make harmful mistakes.

These same issues apply to distracted walking. Take a look at the large number of people walking while doing some other activity – talking on a cell phone, using earbuds to listen to music, watching a video or reading a message on a mobile device. People trust themselves to be able to walk while doing other activities that draw a lot of attention. It’s as if people think that walking is so automatic, they don’t need to pay attention.

A new study on distracted walking released by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) finds that more than three quarters (78 percent) of U.S. adults believe that distracted walking is a “serious” issue. Some people referred to this as “zoning out.”

“Today, the dangers of the ‘digital dead walker’ are growing with more and more people falling down stairs, tripping over curbs, bumping into others, or stepping into the path of on-coming vehicles causing a rising number of injuries—from scrapes and bruises to sprains and fractures,” said Alan Hilibrand, MD, AAOS spokesperson. Emergency department hospital visits for injuries involving distracted walkers on cell phones more than doubled between 2004 and 2010, according to a 2013 study appearing in the journal Accident, Analysis & Prevention.

One of the challenges in combating distracted walking may be that we’re overly confident in our ability to multitask. When asked why they walk distracted, 48 percent of respondents in the AAOS study said “they just don’t think about it,” 28 percent feel “they can walk and do other things,” and 22 percent “are busy and want to use their time productively.”

The issue of distracted walking is especially serious when it takes place on a construction site. The possibility for severe injury is much greater because of the configuration of walkways and the unfinished state of most walkway conditions. A further hazard is moving equipment in and around the construction site. Often times equipment operators are watching the condition of their loads and not paying attention to workers who are walking around the site. If a worker on the ground isn’t paying attention to what’s happening on the site, too, the situation could end in tragedy.

Safety professionals have developed a practice to control distracted walking caused by mobile phones – the cell phone safe zone. This is a designated place on the construction site where no traffic or trip fall hazards are allowed, enabling a worker to use a phone safely without worrying about anything else that’s going on in the area.

Outside of the cell phone safe zone, companies should prohibit distractions or constantly remind workers to engage – that is, pay attention while we walk.

“The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons urges workers to avoid musculoskeletal and other injuries by engaging with their surroundings — drivers, other walkers and obstacles,” said

Dr. Hilibrand. “Many of us simply need to force ourselves to set down our devices and focus on what’s in front of and around us.”

Download the recording form here.