I know what you're thinking: "oh no! Terrorists, bombs, machine guns, oh no!"
While those things aren't out of the question, it certainly isn't the norm. Situational Awareness is just that, in its simplest form, 'being aware of your surroundings and potential hazards that may affect the reason you are in an area'. SA (situational awareness) is a mindset most of you use already in your everyday life. For instance, you are going out to dinner with a friend and it’s across town. You think, "I'll use 'A street' to shoot over to '50th' since its 6 pm and the traffic will be lighter by then. Lighter traffic= less risk of an accident, therefore a less stressful ride, leading to a more enjoyable time with your friend, right? But how did you know that? Our brains are geared in a way that uses a balance of risk, efficiency, and safety against, speed, time allotted, and acceptable outcome.
If you use those same principles toward the pictures below, and use the example of: You are a survey crew tasked with plotting this field today for a new building. Seems simple enough right? Well it is if you incorporate the mindset you used just a minuet ago, it’s even easier.
Look at the field, seems docile enough. No fire breathing dragons, terrorists to contend with; but look at the big picture. You and your team will be all over this field today which borders on a pretty busy stretch of road. There's your fist obstacle. Should you divert traffic since you'll need to be on the boarder of that road to survey? Maybe traffic cones and ANSI vests will suffice. Are you visible? Yes, it’s a clear day and there doesn't appear to be ice or large puddles that could cause a vehicle to veer so, cones and vests are the appropriate traffic protection. (OSHA 1910 requirements for working in or near lanes of traffic)
Next, this particular field is in rural Georgia. You are going to be stomping all over this field, and there will be times that you have to stand still for quite some time. What are you thinking? If you've ever accidently stepped into a bed of red ants, you likely will not forget it. Even just brushing by one can get you stung fifty or sixty times. If you step directly in one, hundreds will be up your legs before you feel the first sting. If you are allergic, you will become tachycardic (dangerously fast heart rate) and nearly frozen with panic in the first two minutes. This is a very bad situation.
In addition, snakes, yellow jackets, poison ivy and a myriad of other dangers await you as you trudge through this field, but the job has to be done! It can be done safely, I assure you.
Using your Situational Awareness skills, make note of a relative traffic average on the road. If there are 'lulls,' say when traffic is held up by a traffic signal, do your curb work during those lulls and limit you and your team’s exposure to the dangers of traffic.
Next, have a plan. If possible, have a crew member whose sole purpose is to keep track of the team, preferably positioned at a higher elevation and in clear view. Make sure he has a working, fully charged cell phone just in case.
Finally, typically large tractors maintain these fields. They will make the field 'seem' completely level. Rest assured it is not. There will be large holes all over that field and its likely there will be several trip hazards. Stepping into one of these quite often results in a lost time injury at the minimum. They are deep and are notorious for cracking ankles and even hyperextending knees. Both require the remaining team members to assist the injured member to egress and ultimately the Emergency Dept. of the local hospital. Not good. Now you have a lost time accident, the survey is not complete, and the Boss is looking for you.
The time it takes to have walked the parameter of the field, stake off dangerous areas, and get an overview of potential 'hot spots' is roughly five minutes. That, my friends is 'situational awareness' at its most basic.
Remember, safety is a skill that becomes habit. It often is the difference between not just life and death, but repeat business and a successful crew. Like we always say at DC&P, when your safety program is strong, so are your profits!'
'Till next time, be safe and ARRIVE ALIVE!