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An Introduction to Situational Awareness

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on April 30, 2021 at 5:15 PM

What makes safety work? The right equipment? The right rules? As most safety professionals know, safety often comes down to awareness.

Situational awareness in the workplace is crucial to your safety process. It features heavily in safety management frameworks and is the skill you drill in employees during safety training, even if you don’t name it directly. What is situational awareness, and why is it so important for your safety efforts?

Here’s what you need to know for your next safety training.

What is Situational Awareness?

In simple terms, situational awareness is being aware of what’s going on around you. Not just the casual features, but being aware of where you are, where you are supposed to be, and whether anyone or anything around you is a threat to your safety.

By becoming aware, you can adjust your behaviors to reduce the risk of injury, making adjustments based on real-time experience instead of past experience.

Generally, there are three factors affecting a potential risk episode:

  1. Human factor
  2. Environmental factor
  3. Situational factor

The human factor is the mental and physical state of the people involved. The environmental factor is the immediate physical environment and material items. The situational factor is the stress levels associated with the circumstances.

When you have situational awareness, you can change those stress levels to de-escalate a potentially unsafe situation.

Importance of Situational Awareness in the Workplace

This is what makes situational awareness in the workplace so important.

When a situation happens, there are usually two responses: the emotional knee-jerk response and the planned cognitive response. Situational awareness allows you to react to a situation with composure, or prevent a situation from deteriorating in the first place. The goal of situational awareness training is to engrain that calm, planned response.

Ways to Improve Situational Awareness

The key to situational awareness is training your employees to take a step back and assess, rather than just responding. This involves a lot of practice.

One option to encourage situational awareness is gamification, where you leverage principles of human motivation in a game setting to incentivize employees toward situational awareness.

In the long-term, though, it’s more important to practice communication. Without communication, you won’t be able to get everyone on board and on the same page. A good way to practice this in training is to give workers a sample risk situation and have them discuss what they see in groups. Then, ask how they can use that same skill set in their everyday work, or what they would do if they encountered the same risk situation at work.

Your Support System for Stronger Safety Awareness

Situational awareness at work is a critical on-the-job safety tool, allowing you to identify hazards in the moment and take steps to mitigate them.

However, it’s just one small part of the picture. It has to be reinforced by the right tools. That’s where we come in, with safety management software that drives awareness in every individual component of your safety program. That way, you can take a bird’s eye view of the situation and make the right judgment call.

Get in touch today to learn how our software can reinforce your team’s safety awareness.

Topics: Training Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture, Human Resources

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