Maintaining awareness to every potential hazard present at many construction work sites is difficult even on those days when you feel focused. These days, more and more employers and their employees rely on cell phones and other electronic devices to get the job done and distractions linked to their use play a role in reducing risk awareness.
Studies show that contractors’ job-related use of smart phones has increased 35% and use of tablets rose nearly 54% from 2011 to 2012. The prevalence of electronic devices as part of work tasks creates the potential for losing situational awareness, which has a potentially negative impact on workers in the construction industry.
The Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS) data shows that fatal injury rates among construction workers is almost three times that of all occupations. In 2013, highway, street and bridge workers represented 8% of all construction work fatalities, 65% were involved in traffic incidents and 17% came into contact with objects and equipment. Even higher percentages of workers in all categories suffered non-fatal injuries. Loss of situational awareness undoubtedly contributed to many of these worker accidents and the culprit may be one of many devices used by workers.
It is believed that multi tasking, such as talking on the phone while working, impairs performance. On the job use of electronic devices can lead to inattention or “change blindness”, which is an inability to encode visual information received due to a mental work overload. In a construction setting, the added mental workload can mask imminent dangers such as equipment and traffic or lead to unsafe behaviors such as falls or unintentional walking into hazardous areas.
Given the prevalence of electronic devices on job sites, employers are well-advised to provide guidance to their workers in order to raise safety awareness when using electronic devices on the job. If you or a family member has been injured in a construction workplace accident, contact the personal injury workers compensation law offices of John T. Hemminger for help.
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