Situational Awareness: A Different Way of Assessing Risk Safety

Situational Awareness: A Different Way of Assessing Risk

When workplace accidents or incidents occur, employers perform investigations to determine the root causes and to prevent these events from happening again. They want to determine if, within their safety managed system, all issues with the potential to cause accidents or incidents have been properly addressed.

The concept of situational awareness is certainly not a new one. From a health and safety perspective, situational awareness means being aware of the surrounding conditions in your immediate work area and recognizing and dealing with unsafe work conditions before they become an issue. It can probably be more accurately described as a hazardous work condition assessment.

Examples of a lack of situational awareness would be undetected ice hanging dangerously from a building, poorly secured material on a roof becomes airborne during a wind storm, or tools that were left in a position where they could easily fall if disturbed.

Job safety planning

The job safety planning process has often taken into account data from studies involving accident and incident theory. Typical results from accident ratio studies are not meant to predict the future escalation of these events. They should be seen as an indication that your safety managed system needs improvements to increase the prevention of incidents and accidents.

Unsafe working conditions

Workplace conditions are usually not static and they can change significantly at any time. Therefore, they need to be continuously monitored. This includes before, during and after completion of the job.  

In considering the environment element of a safety managed system, bear in mind that it encompasses more than just outdoor issues:  

Weather conditions

    High winds, lightning, heat/cold, rain/snow

Lighting conditions

    Adequate intensity (indoors), time of day (outdoors), visibility

Air quality conditions

    Dust/particulate, gases, temperature/humidity, O₂ deficiency

Physical work conditions

    Housekeeping, uneven surfaces, soil conditions, unsecured tools/equipment, heights