Your Situational Awareness and its Role in the Workplace

Being aware of your surroundings so that you can readily identify dangerous situations and identify possible threats could save your life. Situational awareness is useful in everyday life but has a practical application in the workplace. Maintaining this mindset could ensure that you return home with the same number of fingers and toes every night. Moreover, it could be the reason that you make it home at all.

Understanding Situational Awareness:

Situational awareness involves being aware of your immediate surroundings and the impact of your or other’s actions as it relates to the well-being of yourself and those around you. It requires the use of knowledge from experience and education in order to accurately assess and determine your level of safety. It is also important to acknowledge that each individual’s level of awareness may differ from your own when making an appraisal of your environment.

You should also remember that what you perceive as happening in your surroundings may not completely represent reality. How you read a situation could be easily influenced by distractions, personal experiences, and the quality of the type and level of information that you have been given.

construction worker on construction site

How to Develop Situational Awareness:

Knowing how serious, and how many problems you face in the workplace is crucial to your ability to avoid accidents, injuries, or even deaths. Improving situational awareness should give you a better understanding of potential risks and how you can avoid them.

Temporary loss or lack of situational awareness can be a common factor in construction accidents. This could happen as a result of getting lost in thought, engaging in repetitive tasks, and/or being overwhelmed by levels of activity around you. When this happens, you could become unable to spot dangers that pose a threat to your safety and health.

Here are some simple steps to help you improve your consciousness:

  • Stop: Take time to think before you act.
  • Look: Scan your workplace for potential hazards to you and your coworkers. Report risks to your supervisors.
  • Assess: Calculate the effects of hazards on yourself and others, pressures, equipment, procedures, and your surroundings. Take a moment to think about whether you have the appropriate tools, knowledge, and training to deal with the task at hand. If necessary, consult with your supervisor.
  • Manage: At any point, if you feel unsafe, stop. Tell your coworkers and supervisor. Inform them of any possible solutions improve the safety of yourself and others.

injury prevention with proper PPE

Injury Prevention:

While your level of awareness can significantly improve your chances of avoiding injury, it is also a best practice to implement the use of safety gear and education. Most workplaces should have the proper equipment or reading material to enhance your ability and understanding of possible risks.

The first step in injury prevention is educating yourself on the potential hazards that your environment or actions pose to yourself or others. You can never know too much. It is best to ensure that you are up-to-date with the processes and procedures of equipment as well as systems in place in your work environment. This doesn’t mean that you have to sit in a classroom either. It could be as simple as asking your supervisor if there is any material for you to read or watch which can provide you with valuable information.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed to give your body an extra layer of protection from illness or infection. Examples of this type of apparel include gloves, helmets, safety glasses or goggles, and jackets. Safety equipment significantly reduces your exposure to hazards in the workplace. While it does not completely eliminate threats, PPE should minimize risks to acceptable levels. If you feel like you are experiencing additional strain, or have faulty personal protective equipment you should immediately notify your supervisor.

construction worker in full PPE

In the Event of Accident or Injury:

Part of situational awareness is knowledge of your surroundings and the hazards they pose to your health. The other half is knowing how to react to a situation in order to minimize further risk.

Common injuries due to slips, trips, and falls can be some of the most costly for you and your employers. You may not think it is a big deal if you fall and end up with a sprained thumb joint or twisted wrist, but if left unattended it could become much worse. Injuries such as these affecting the pinch or grasp activities could have a serious effect on your ability to perform your job and put you at even greater risk.

When an accident or injury occurs it can make a situation even more dynamic. Reacting appropriately could not only reduce additional damage but could save lives. In the event of an injury, you should stop what you are doing and notify a supervisor. If an injury is life-threatening then you should immediately contact emergency medical services.

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