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Incident Prevention Magazine

Jeffrey Sullivan

Reject Risk Acceptance

The coronavirus pandemic is running wild, the economy is barely running at all, and I am running out of patience. I often hear people talk about the new normal, but personally, I am ready for the old normal: dinners out with friends, the Clemson Tigers on the football field and traveling with my son’s hockey team. All of this stuff runs through my head every day, and in some form or another, it’s likely running through your head, too. And if we are spending our time and energy thinking and worrying about everything that’s going on right now, do you know what we aren’t focusing on the way we should?

Our safety at work.

I have long said that complacency, also referred to as risk acceptance, is the biggest threat we face in life. It is the act of identifying a risk and then choosing not to take any action to eliminate or mitigate that risk. How many times has that gone poorly and caught us off guard? Perhaps there was a flash in a meter can, a broken water line at the end of an auger or a co-worker partially buried in a trench. Those things that went wrong did so because we accepted the risk that they could go wrong. We decided to leave the service hot in the meter can to fix the broken jaw and went phase to ground. We decided to use the auger even though we were a little too close to the blue marking paint on the ground. We decided to jump in the hole to splice the cable. Why did we decide to do those things? Perhaps because we were fatigued, distracted, feeling pressed for time or because almost all of us have done them dozens, hundreds or possibly even thousands of times before. The phrase “We do it all the time” usually is uttered in the follow-up meetings to these types of events. It’s complacency, it’s risk acceptance, and it’s dangerous.

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Take Off Those Blinders: The Importance of Situational Awareness

Some days I feel like a broken record with my apprentice. “Watch out for …,” “Keep in mind …” and, of course, the much more emphatic “Hey, hey, hey, you can’t …” Those of us who work in the field on a daily basis and are responsible for the training of less experienced workers know this feeling well. So, how do we train our workers, keep them safe and still be productive? To me, it comes down to one simple phrase: situational awareness.

What is situational awareness? I am constantly using the analogy of blinders on a racehorse to describe it. All those horses care about is what is directly in front of them as they run down that track. In our line of work, that way of thinking is dangerous. It is easy to talk about the scope of a job and identify hazards, but once work starts, the situation changes and a worker’s field of vision may shrink. Sometimes there is so much going on in your working environment, or you become so absorbed in your own thoughts, that you fail to spot those things that could pose a serious threat to your health and safety.

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — Geoffrey Rogers
Good article and very true.
Wednesday, 29 May 2019 13:44
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