Do you have any “text zombies” at your workplace? A new study shows that, just like their fictional TV and movie counterparts, text zombies walk differently, making them more likely to fall.
The study by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia is the first to compare the impact of typing and reading text on a cell phone on walking.
The findings: People reading text or typing on a cell phone while walking move more slowly and rigidly and are less likely to walk in a straight line. This puts them at a greater risk of tripping, falling, or bumping into objects or people.
The researchers had 26 people walk about 30 feet, then walk the same distance two more times — once while reading text on a cell phone and once while texting. Each time they were tracked using a three-dimensional movement analysis system.
Participants swerved the most and slowed down more while texting. Their balance was also compromised.
Lead author Dr. Siobhan Schabrun said when they are texting, “People walk like robots. They try to keep their head straight so their eyes can stay on the phone. They lock their arms, their trunk and their head together.”
So, the comparison to zombies seems very apt — people walk more stiffly when they’re texting.
Schabrun adds, “The more rigid people are, the more likely they are to fall.”
Rigid posture is just one factor. The one that’s most likely to impact safety, according to the study, is deviation from walking in a straight line.
Some companies have enacted strict bans on any use of cell phones in the workplace. Others are struggling to come up with a policy that makes sense for their facility — something short of a complete ban.
This study suggests one rule you might want to enact: No walking while reading or sending text on a cell phone.
Whether your facility has production machinery or warehouse space, you can imagine the potential for injuries when someone walks while texting. Think of the potential falls and collisions.
Does your company have a policy regarding cell phone use on the job? Let us know in the comments.