Staff at the University of Newcastle received an odd "safety alert" the other day, when a message sent around warned about the dangers of texting and walking. The message was disappointingly not sent by text itself, but in a group email advising that "a number of University staff" have been injured as a result of using their mobile phones on the go.
Woman texting image from Shutterstock.com
While this isn't a new phenomenon, with viral videos of oblivious phone-users popping up every week, it seems to have grown to such a worrying level at the University of Newcastle that someone felt the need to send out this warning. Already the university’s associate director of health and safety Dr Maggie Goldie has reported that two staff members have already been involved in "self-declared" accidents caused by walking with a mobile phone, and there are other suspected cases.
"When using your smart phone... you're not in full control with the action of walking because you can't see the path in front of you," Fairfax reports the warning to have said, citing numerous hazards on the bushland campus including pedestrians, cars and bikes. "When most people go for a bushwalk you don't make a point of using your phone while you hike."
Luckily for smartphone addicts, the advice will not actually be enforced, but it comes as part of a larger movement promoting safety on campus. This includes other advice such as clearing fallen bark from footpaths and holding handrails on the stairs.
It doesn't seem like everyone is taking the new advice that seriously, however. "I await the one about breathing and chewing," one staff member told the Newcastle Herald. Another staff member, an IT systems administrator named Graham Percy thought it was all a little over-the-top. "I suppose in the world we're living in, commonsense doesn't really exist any more and it's about 'warn me or I'll sue you'," Mr Percy said. "I’ve seen the OH&S thing pick up a couple of times and and then die off. [Lately] I do see a lot more emails." He even suggests that the email warning could have been better served if sent to students, as he sees far more students than staff using their phones while walking.