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Looking for the Gorilla in the Room


How Enhancing Situational Awareness Can Prevent Injury

In the book titled the, The Invisible Gorilla, Daniel Simons and Christopher F. Chabris use a wide assortment of stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to reveal an important truth: Our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot. This is easily demonstrated by watching their short video, The Monkey Business Illusion, featured on YouTube, and seeing (or not seeing) for yourself.

(Spoiler Alert!) Assuming you just watched the video and missed seeing the gorilla and other subtle background changes while you focused on the people in the white shirts passing the ball, you can see that we can often miss things that would normally stick out like a sore thumb. After watching the video a second time, we’re surprised that we didn’t see the gorilla the first time.

This can happen in the workplace too. Oftentimes, workers become so accustomed to their surroundings or so focused on the activity at hand that they no longer see the potential dangers or gorilla’s in the room. When workers do this  – especially in construction and industrial settings – they put everyone at risk, which is why it’s important that managers take steps to enhance situational awareness of workplace hazards.

How to Improve Situational Awareness

Get in the habit of regularly pausing to make a quick mental assessment of your working environment. When doing so, consider the following questions:

  • Is there anything around you that poses a threat to your health and safety and if so, to what extent?
  • Is the threat big enough that you should stop working?
  • Is there anything you can do to safely reduce that threat in order that you can carry on working safely?

Use the SLIM Technique

If you see something unsafe or spot a hazard, don’t walk by – take responsibility to deal with it. If you feel you are in any immediate danger to your health or safety STOP work immediately and inform your supervisor.

STOP: Engage your mind before your hands. Look at the task in hand.
LOOK:  Look at your workplace and find the hazards to you and your workmates. Report these immediately to your supervisor.
IDENTIFY: Assess the effects that the hazards have on you, the people you work with, equipment, procedures, pressures and the environment. Ask yourself if you have the knowledge, training and tools to do the task safely. Do this with your supervisor.
MANAGE: If you feel unsafe, stop working. Tell your supervisor and workmates. Tell your supervisor what actions you think are necessary to make the situation safe.

Where and When to Use Situational Awareness Techniques

  • When beginning work on a new project/contract.
  • When you think the work, the environment has changed since a risk assessment or method statement was written.
  • When working with new or different workmates.
  • Before complacency has set in – it can be a silent killer!

In addition to teaching your workers situational awareness, Martin’s OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainers can visit your site and simulate an OSHA inspection. We conduct a comprehensive on-site safety evaluation for potential hazards and OSHA violations with each inspection providing a detailed report of all findings. The report can be used as a guide for correcting any inadequacies or exposures, thus avoiding injuries, fatalities, as well as, fines from OSHA. In short, Martin inspects before OSHA inspects so you can protect your employees and address problem areas.

Contact your Martin Rep or call 256.627.0804 to learn more.