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You May Not be as Safe as You Think!

May 15, 2013

Some of the strangest accidents happen when we are distracted, and most often we aren’t even aware it’s happening to us.  Take for instance the 77 year-old pilot from Chattanooga whose story recently hit the nation’s headlines.  Why all the coverage?  Well listen to what happen.

The pilot had recently purchased an experimental plane and hired a seasoned instructor to work with him to fly it safely.  So far, so good.  The Instructor spent two hours first flying solo to ensure the plane was operating safely – he reported no issues according to the F.A.A. report.  Upon landing at the small airport, the pilot met the instructor at the plane and eagerly prepared for their initial joint training flight. plane 167230130

While both seated with fastened belts, they attempted to start the single engine to no avail.  The battery wasn’t strong enough so they opened the canopy and asked for a battery charge.  The pilot unbuckled his seatbelt at this time attempting to help the maintenance person, but was told that was not necessary and to stay seated.  The instructor stated that he thought he heard him buckle his seatbelt but did not see him do this.  They then closed the canopy, started the engine, taxied and then took off.  So far, so good.  Soon after takeoff the instructor noted he heard air coming in from underneath the canopy and into the cockpit. While the instructor attempted to better secure the canopy latch, the plane started to dive.  According to the report, at that same time the canopy flew open and the student pilot was ejected from the plane at 2,500ft.  The instructor gained control of the plane and safely landed it. 

In reviewing this tragedy, it became evident that the distraction of getting a battery charge before takeoff, in part, accounted for the student pilot not making certain he was securely buckled the second time.  In a similar manner they evidently did not secure the canopy properly as one of many required safety checks.  The report verified that both the seatbelt and the canopy latch were functioning properly after the plane landed.

While most of us do not fly planes, we do drive cars, cut the lawn, peel apples, walk down steps, exercise and more.  Doing any of these while distracted is a leading cause of accidents, especially for normally safe individuals.  It is important to note that our emotions, both excitement and anxiety, do impact our attention span and ability to focus on the task at hand.  Add to the mix -- talking, listening to music, day dreaming, and fatigue and this only provides more distraction.

The best way to NOT be distracted, is to focus on the task at hand and put aside the distractions you have control over!  And like we just learned from the story above, anything else you attempt to do simultaneously simply increases the likelihood of an accident occurring.  


What about distractions in the workplace?

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Chris Klinvex Chris Klinvex , was the EVP and Co-Founder of Select International, acquired by PSI. He led the Safety Solutions Group focused on innovative research based safety solutions that are changing how organization approach workplace safety. His team’s most recent award for the new SafetyDNA® Assessment and Development program won the prestigious 2017 Best Online Safety training award from Occupational Health and Safety.