Why a Culture of Multitasking and Distraction May be Deadly

Always be aware of multitasking and Distraction

We often assume as technology improves, our lives are safer. In some instances this is true. Safety is typically a top priority during most design processes, and forklift production is no exception. Many improvements have been made over the years to make forklifts safer to operate. Thus, many injuries and deaths have been avoided as a result. However, what is less obvious, is the ways technology has potentially made it more dangerous to work around these multi-ton machines.

Technology may be improving rapidly, making our lives simpler and more productive, but our capacity as humans to pay careful attention to multiple things vying for our attention is inherently limited. Studies have shown that people are generally not as good at multitasking as they think they are, yet new technologies and related tasks encourage doing more and more things at once. Among the many repercussions from this phenomenon are mental fatigue and diminished performance. This is problematic, not only because of productivity, but for safety as well.

Technology Affects Forklift Operation

Let’s apply this thinking to forklift operation. A forklift driver has more safety mechanisms built into his vehicle, but he may also have more displays, gauges, auditory signals and other information devices demanding his attention. Especially, when there is a history of safety within a facility. Drivers become complacent, being more concerned with efficiency and productivity than safe driving. When operating in areas with high traffic, tight corners or other obstacles, a driver may not see a pedestrian until it is too late, causing an accident.

Mobility Concerns

Distractions are increasingly prevalent for pedestrians, too. People have become accustomed to looking down at a smartphone or tablet all the time. They use these devices to check email, browse inventory lists or conduct other business on-the-go. Our new world of mobility is beneficial for this reason, but it can also lead to preventable accidents. When walkers do not adequately pay attention to their environment, they are risking their lives. Constantly walking with their heads down, a phone or radio to their ear, or other distractions could be the factor that causes a forklift accident. A forklift is designed to brake slowly and if a driver does not see you it may be too difficult to avoid an accident.


The best response to these trends of multitasking and distraction accidents is training. Training and the enactment of protocols will encourage environmental awareness. Along with training, design an environment that is safer for pedestrians. Provide auditory signals for approaching forklifts, flashing lights to warn drivers and pedestrians of one another’s presence, and dedicate pedestrian walkways. Finally, invest in equipment upgrades for forklifts, such as the inclusion of a blue LED spotlight. A blue LED spotlight stands out from the rest of the environment and catches the attention of nearby pedestrians as a forklift approaches.

Technology will continue to improve allowing us to accomplish more in less time. It’s a wonderful revelation, but we must remember our limitations. Follow simple procedures to stay safe and avoid injury on the job. For specifics on improving pedestrian safety, watch our webinar on the topic. If you have any questions, please contact us today (614) 896-2360!


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