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WHS Dangers in Distraction.

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

By Gabrielle Condon CC Safety -

Photo by steph washi on Unsplash

If the past 12 or more months in Australia and all over the world have taught us anything, it is the importance of focussing on safety, health including mental health, being in the here and now, and making sure our actions or inactions do not harm or adversely affect others.

Late in 2019 in Australia, we battled catastrophic bushfires, choking smoke and ash, our farmers and many rural towns suffered crippling drought and unprecedented water restrictions, loss of stock and farm produce and devastating loss of wildlife habitat and flora and fauna deaths numbering in the billions. Every Australian may have been affected in some way whether directly through personal loss or health effects, or indirectly with rise in cost of living and products or loss of produce from affected areas, as well as loss to our nations’ unique wildlife.

Following a slow path to recovery and with aid pouring in from all over the country and the world, the affected people began to get back to rebuilding, and looking for a new normal. The effects of climate change were becoming all too real, and as a nation of people who love the great outdoors, we had our eyes opened to irrefutable scientific revelations of impending doom if we personally did not take responsibility for waste of resources and our over-use of plastics. We realised if our leaders did not soon take action to halt the earth’s rising carbon emissions, our planet will struggle to recover. To then have a global pandemic declared in March 2020 was a huge shock to many already reeling from the previous few months. Although we in Australia and New Zealand have been incredibly lucky, we have good leaders who have managed Covid19 strictly and swiftly, we cannot be complacent in keeping this virus out of our lives and out of our country.

The human task of managing to go to work, looking for work, managing new health directives and laws, taking care of our families and ourselves, and finding some type of new normal can be more stressful in times of crises than we realise, even if we do not feel any different, there are physiological effects. We have been distracted with job losses, insecure work, health issues, fear of the unknown, fear for our loved ones and fear for the future. Is it any wonder that we are all potentially distracted?

It is a well-known fact that distraction is a dangerous factor in overlooking risks to health and safety in the workplace, and also whilst driving on our roads. Like any risk management, it requires identification and acknowledgement that distraction can introduce potential problems which can lead to safety hazards. Following this, workplace leaders must consult with their teams who will be most affected and manage risks and control hazards together.

Planning for managing distractions can be as simple as introducing a daily “stand-up” meeting or a Tool-box Talk and discussing the daily plans, reminding workers to keep focussed on their work at hand, staying in the moment, training ourselves to bring our minds back to right here and now, and to talk to someone if there are any problems, as a team depends on each other.

It is also important to acknowledge the trials and hard times we have all been through; talk to our teams and let them know of Employee Assistance Programs if they are available, or direct them to external providers for mental health assistance and counselling such as local providers, or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4363 and Lifeline 131144.

An engaged and supported work team is a safe work team.

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