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Incident Prevention Magazine

Kelly Sparrow, J.D.

The Importance of Situational Awareness in the Utility Industry

Years ago I read an account of an injury that took place on a U.S. Army base in California. I’m not sure if this account is truth or fiction, but it serves to illustrate a point about the importance of thinking a plan all the way through prior to implementing it.

A private was assigned the job of removing broken Spanish tiles from a rooftop after a large tree fell on the building. He was ordered not to throw the tiles off the roof. The private drove a jeep to the site and assessed his work.

There were lots of broken tiles, and it would take many trips up and down a ladder using the canvas he had to wrap them in. The building had an empty rain barrel, the private had a rope and a block and tackle, and a brilliant plan formed in the private’s head. He climbed a ladder to the edge of the roof and tied the block and tackle to a beam left exposed by the damage. He threaded the rope and lowered it to the ground. He went back down the ladder, attached the rope to the barrel and raised it to roof level, and tied the rope off to the bumper of the jeep.

The private went back up the ladder and quickly filled the barrel with broken tiles. This was going to be a piece of cake. He went back down the ladder thinking he would be done in three barrels’ worth. He untied the rope from the bumper and held onto it.

Can you guess what happened next?

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