National safety month illustration

June is National Safety Month

Rushing, complacency, fatigue and frustration. These are the mindsets that lead to error and injury. 

Rushing

Most have felt it: rapid heart rate, increased adrenaline, sweating, eyes and mind jumping ahead, skipping steps in a process. Rushing is situational, whether you are working alone at home or with others on a large project.  

Address the risks of rushing during job-hazard analysis briefings and crew tailgate meetings. Get coworkers thinking about the consequences of rushing and how they might react when it happens. Even when performing a routine task, recognize when you begin to rush, consider the risks and focus on the moment. 

Complacency

Watch out for the warning signs of complacency, which include working on autopilot, missing or skipping steps in a process and taking shortcuts. Other signs might be a lack of motivation, communication issues or frequent close calls. 

Address complacency by increasing your focus. This includes recognizing distractions and dismissing them. Especially that smart phone – put it away and concentrate. Avoid working on autopilot by changing your routine or elements of your schedule when possible and safe. Engage coworkers during tailgate meetings, JHA briefings and work assignments. Do this by talking through or repeating steps in a process, highlighting risks so they are not overlooked and reminding coworkers of hazards. 

Fatigue

Long work hours, physical exertion, extended shifts and poor sleep patterns can intensify fatigue. According to OSHA, “Fatigue can cause weariness, sleepiness, irritability, reduced alertness, impaired decision making, and lack of motivation, concentration and memory.” 

Fatigue reduction includes getting more sleep, staying hydrated, exercising and improving one’s diet. If work demands cause fatigue, discuss possible solutions with your supervisor. 

Frustration

Long hours, project deadlines and other worksite conditions cause stress. “Frustration is an emotional stress response,” according to webmd.com. “Frustration is the feeling of irritability or anger because of the inability to achieve something.”  

You might be stuck in traffic or forget to bring equipment to a work site. Your response is essential – you can let frustration build up and boil over or learn ways to manage it. 

Frustration does not just go away; identifying the cause helps stop it. Talking feelings out with someone or even writing them down can be effective. If your approach to a task is not working, consider doing it another way. Sometimes, accepting a situation for what it is can calm things down. Exercise is also a great stress reliever. It produces endorphins that have a positive effect on the mind and body. 

Protect yourself and others by identifying and addressing the mindsets that lead to error and injury. 

Situational Awareness and Distraction

Two other significant topics to consider during Safety Month are situational awareness and distraction. 

“Situational awareness is being aware of what is happening around you,” according to Health and Safety Executive. “And whether anyone or anything around you is a threat to your health and safety.” 

Situational awareness starts with being aware of our surroundings and actively observing and identifying potential hazards. If a risk is identified, we must respond with an action that resolves or avoids the hazard. A basic example is if you see water on the floor, wipe it up.    

Distraction is one of the biggest enemies of situational awareness. Phones are a primary culprit, with all those calls, texts, emails, social media and other disruptions diverting our attention. There are also mental and emotional distractions such as stress, depression, anger, confusion, substance use, multitasking and more. 

Sometimes, the workplace can be a distraction. Add heavy machinery, energized equipment, or working at heights to the equation, and the hazards increase dramatically.  

Distraction also clouds our ability to process information, understand the results and communicate effectively. A misstep in the situational awareness process can obscure the right course of action or stop it altogether. 

“Even the most experienced people can lack situational awareness – especially when doing tasks that have become routine,” according to HSE. “Situational awareness is important to everyone – it is important that everyone is aware of their surroundings and the potential hazards they face.” 

Practicing situational awareness at work will help you increase the practice in your personal life. After all, safety shouldn’t stop after you finish work for the day. 

Sources used for this writeup: Safe Start, National Safety Council, Ohsonline.com, Occupational Safety and Health Administration

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Last modified on June 6th, 2024