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January 17, 2014
Can mindfulness prevent potentially hazardous errors?

This week’s report of a passenger jet landing at the wrong airport has led to discussions about attentiveness at work. Can you help employees avoid accidents by training them to be more mindful about what they’re doing? Keep reading to learn more.

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We all let our minds and attention wander from time to time. But depending on the type of work being performed, moments of inattention can lead to dangerous conditions or deadly accidents. At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), safety culture training for lab workers and other employees addresses mindfulness.

Assistant Vice Chancellor Marc Gomez oversees environment, health, and safety (EHS) at the university. “We see the main cause of accidents is inattention and a lack of mindfulness about one’s circumstances and surroundings,” says Gomez. To combat the problem, the university hired psychologist Jessica Drew de Paz to incorporate mindfulness into the employee safety-training curriculum. The idea is to make workers more aware of their surroundings and remain in the moment rather than being pulled away by distractions. Mindfulness not only helps prevent accidents but can also reduce stress, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.

Share these tips for staying focused

You don’t have to be a mindfulness expert to improve your ability to stay focused on the task and avoid serious mistakes. A few simple behavioral changes can help.

  • Focus on your breathing to help you stay in the moment.
  • Take occasional brief breaks and let your mind deliberately wander, then return to the task more focused.
  • Stay well fed and well hydrated so that thirst and hunger don’t distract you.
  • Write down thoughts about things you need to remember to do at home. This gets them out of your head and helps you concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Create a work environment that helps you concentrate. For example, you might position yourself to get more daylight or to get away from noisy coworkers.
  • Be mindful of the risks of repetitive work. Focus can lag when workers do the same thing over and over again. Consider job rotation to avoid the risk.
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