Updated: Jun 3
We Aren't Born with It!
“They need to be more aware of their surroundings.” This term is often used to describe the corrective action resulting from an employee injury. Using this term assumes that everyone is born with a certain amount of “situational awareness” that will provide a protective shield against exposure in the workplace. Situational awareness is not something a person is born with. It is a skill that is developed through repetition, focus, and consistent use of hazard analysis.
Simply put, situational awareness is knowing what is going on around you. Each person’s level of situational awareness differs. Even the most experienced people can lack situational awareness, especially when performing non-routine tasks. A person’s knowledge, experience and education enable individuals to understand what is going on around them and allows them to determine the actions required to ensure their personal safety. Assuming everyone has adequate situational awareness is flawed.
Situational awareness, like hazard analysis, involves pausing to analyze required tasks and the work environment. It also requires workers to ask themselves whether there is anything in the immediate area that can negatively impact the ability to perform work safely, identify situations requiring a work stoppage, and the actions required to safely perform the task.
Using tools such as job safety or job hazard analysis (JSA or JHA) can improve situational awareness. Hazard analysis involves identifying the steps required to perform a required task, the hazards associated with each step, and use of the hierarchy of controls methodology to eliminate, reduce or control the hazards.
Situational awareness isn’t something we’re born with. It is something we acquire through experience and education. The good news is that consistently using hazard analysis can improve situational awareness. The more we use hazard analysis the more the process becomes intuitive. In other words, situational awareness becomes instinctive.
Joe Mlynek is a partner and subject matter expert at Safety Made Simple, LLC. He has over 20 years of experience in safety at the corporate level and as a consultant. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Occupational Safety and Health Technician (OHST). Joe can be reached at email@example.com