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Digital Distraction In Industrial Settings Causing Accidents

Digital Distraction In Industrial Settings Causing Accidents

Sept. 3, 2020
A new survey says 14% of respondents said at least one workplace accident happened because employee was distracted by their smartphone.
Cell phone distraction while on the job is becoming a serious problem. A new study, Digital Distraction & Workplace Safety, issued by Screen Education, reported that survey respondents estimated that the average employee spends 2.5 hours each workday accessing digital content that is unrelated to their job. The survey involved 1,019 U.S employees and was conducted in the spring of 2020.In addition to killing productivity, this degree of distraction causes accidents --- 14% of respondents said at least one accident had occurred at their workplace because an employee was distracted by their smartphone.  These accidents had serious consequences:
  • 59% caused property damage
  • 50% caused injury or death

Among respondents who work in an industrial setting, an even greater percentage --- 26% --- reported accidents had occurred in their workplace because someone was distracted by their smartphone. And these accidents were more consequential:

  • 75% caused property damage
  • 58% caused injury or death

“What's astonishing is that 47% of respondents said their employer actually had a policy that restricted smartphone use at work,” Michael Mercier, president of Screen Education. “So we're seeing these problems despite the existence of smartphone restrictions. This indicates that policy compliance and enforcement are a significant challenge. Employers can't continue to risk having their employees maimed or killed, or to incur enormous property damage costs and liabilities, and increased insurance rates. We must aggressively tackle this problem."

Examples of accidents caused by smartphone-distracted employees include the following:

  • "(Someone) was on their phone and the elevator door (closed)...their jacket got stuck...which made that person's collar choke them and leave a red mark."
  • "Someone was distracted by (their) phone when their arm was crushed by a press."
  • "A patient fell because someone was listening to music and didn't hear the alarm."
  • "We had one employee in a company car texting and driving…(he) rolled the car off a cliff."

Some employees actually want assistance from their employer in addressing their smartphone distraction; 19% of all respondents, and 27% of respondents who work in an industrial setting, said they wish their employer would assist them in reducing the amount of time they spend using non-work digital content during the workday.

For many employees, working from home due to COVID is actually exacerbating digital distraction during the workday:

  • 52% said they were working from home more than usual due to COVID
  • Of that group, 54% said they were communicating with friends and family during work hours more than they usually do via social media, text, email and phone calls

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