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NSSGA Podcast

Jun 2, 2022

It's always a good time to focus on focusing, especially with June being National Safety Month, so today's episode is all about the serious consequences that can occur when we become distracted at work. And there are few, if any, people who are more qualified to discuss this than today's guest, Bill Doran, an Occupational Safety and Health lawyer with Ogletree Deakins. Bill shares one of his many safety stories which he has collected over his almost 30 years in the industry with listeners here today. Episode Highlights:

  • Bill has unfortunately had to participate in a large number of accident investigations whose goal is to identify an unsafe condition/work practice that can be eliminated to ensure that a similar accident never happens again.
  • Often, decisions are made when we are distracted by any number of factors that could be surrounding events, personal thoughts, stress, or just eagerness to get a job accomplished.
  • One such situation that Bill remembers involves an individual and his crew who were involved in the task of refurbishing sections of the metal shell of an elevated kiln which required removing structure and material from both the outside and inside of the kiln shell.
  • This individual was intent on completing the job, and, at one point after passing a sign warning of an open inspection door, he began removing the last debris and material from inside the kiln that needed to be cleared.
  • While doing this, he focused on the plywood board that was covering the opening, picked it up, and then he inadvertently walked forward into the opening, suffering fatal injuries from the 20 foot fall.
  • He wasn't taking shortcuts or risks he was an experienced professional who just lost his focus for a moment.
  • This emphasis on getting the job done is the bedrock of the mining industry - it's the key to the industry success - but that same strength, overcoming all the challenges to complete the task can sometimes be a weakness in hindering your ability to see the more immediate hazards before you.
  • You can't let your guard down - the job will get done, but it may be necessary to take a breath and an extra few minutes to consider the world around you.

Toolbox Talk Discussion Questions:

  • In this story, an experienced miner suffers a fatal fall from a momentary distraction. He wasn’t rushing or being negligent, he just missed a hazard right in front of him. What can we learn from this story?

  • As good as we think we are at multitasking, the brain can miss important pieces of information when you’re jumping between tasks. How can we remember to focus back on the task at hand?

  • Would anyone like to share a story about a distraction or something that took away your focus from a task?


These experiences have taught me that no matter who you are, at any given moment, you can be just a split second decision away from a serious injury.”

No one is immune to these distractions. It doesn't matter how experienced you are, people concentrating on getting the job done, or solving a problem can focus their attention in one way and miss the hazard directly in front of them.”

That's the point. It's not easy, and it wasn't obvious. His focus was on completing the job. Everything that he did after leaving the outside area around the opening... took his attention away from the hazard that was waiting for him.”

One of the real challenges is constant vigilance, always being aware, slowing down, taking a minute.”

Distraction is human, and it's something that we all struggle with, and something that we want to really emphasize and highlight so we can try and prevent distractions in the workplace in any way we can.”


National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association website