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Distracted walking injuries threaten worker safety

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Distracted walking injuries are on the rise and pose a threat to workplaces, National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said.

Accounting for an estimated 11,101 injuries between 2000 and 2011, distracted walking injuries involving cell phones are a “significant safety threat,” the National Safety Council said in a statement on Tuesday.

Though 52% of such injuries occur at home, employers should address the risk just as they have addressed distracted driving, Ms. Hersman said Thursday.

“One of the most reported workplace injury events are slips, trips and falls, so we absolutely see this as falling within that category in the workplace,” Ms. Hersman said. “It doesn't matter … if it's an office environment, if it's a high risk production floor or if it's out in the parking lot of the facility, distracted walking is a recipe for disaster.”

Ms. Hersman said it's difficult to track the number of occupational injuries caused by distracted walking, since workers might be reluctant to admit they were looking down at their cell phones when they were injured.

According to the statement by the National Safety Council, 68% of all people injured by distracted walking are women, and 54% are 40 years old or younger.

It's important to remember that “you might get away with it 99 times, but it's that one time where someone else isn't paying attention or you don't have the opportunity to recover,” Ms. Hersman said.