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Having a bad hair day? Don’t have an accident!

Having one of those days where your mind is not on the job?

How you are feeling has a huge impact on safety, and in particular the risk of an accident.
When your mind is not on the job, you are the hazard. You may not even be “fit for work” depending on the scenario.

If you happen to watch Breaking Bad, Season 2, Episode 13 you may recall the airline crash where two airplanes collided above Walter White’s house as a result of traffic controller error. What was interesting in this storyline was that the traffic controller who made the error was not really ready to come back to work. He was struggling with grief, loss and his mind was not on the job 100%. His lack of focus resulted in an error that claimed the lives of 150+ people.

Image Source: Was Breaking Bad’s Airplane Crash Inspired By A Real Event? (

Given his state of mind at the time of returning to work, this traffic controller presented us with a psychosocial hazard.

What about in real life?

As much as people would like to pretend that their personal lives and their work life are completely separate, this is not the case. They both impact one another.

  • If you have not been sleeping well at home, there is the risk that you will fall asleep at work.
  • If you are struggling with personal issues, your mind can be too occupied to complete a task at work effectively, efficiently or safely.
  • If you leave for work having had the worst argument with your partner that you have had had in years, there is every chance that you will be in a seriously bad mood and unwilling to listen at work.
  • If you are waiting for your baby to be born, and ready to race off, then there is a chance you will race through jobs quicker than what is safe to do so, feeling “antsy” and ready to go at the drop of a hat!

These are just some very basic examples. However, think what it would mean if you had an accident in a piece of equipment or a moving vehicle and other people were involved. The risk is higher than normal when you are not focused, refreshed and there are other personal worries to consider.

What do we do about it?

We need to share when things are not quite right.

  • In some cases, we may need to be sent home from work to take a “Mental Health Day”.
  • We may need to talk to someone about what is happening (for example, make use of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a free counselling helpline).
  • We may need to work alongside someone for the day, checking in as the day progresses.
  • We may need to swap tasks for the day to a much lower risk job.

We need to consider people as a part of our hazards and risks.
A new person, An angry person, A tired person, An upset person … can be a higher risk within our workplace.
Let us prepare for how we would work with people when they are “out of sorts”, define the line (where they go home), identify support we can provide and create a safe workspace.

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