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SAFETY AWARENESS Awareness can be key to safety in the workplace


BY KEVIN ERNST Most would agree that safety knowledge

is important. Companies spend big dollars to develop safety plans and to teach safety policies and procedures to employees. Even the insurance companies have accepted the premise that teaching safety can reduce risk and costs associated with incident claims. In the transportation industry, there is no shortage of compliance rules and safety regulations which we are required to know. Knowledge is important, but knowing how, what, where and when is only useful if applied at the appropriate time; and the key for application is found in awareness. The apex issue of safety concern should

be one’s state of awareness. Consider the often publicized incident of a firearms accident. Those most often involved typically possess several different fire arms and have a good, basic knowledge of what they own, how it works and the associated risks. However, the answer we most often hear post-accident is; “I wasn’t aware that it was loaded.” In the transportation industry,


we have many loaded situations while operating/driving commercial vehicles on the roadways—hooking and unhooking trailers, loading and unloading, or just working on these hulks called trucks. So if awareness is important, how do we

stay sharp and attentive? In the real sense, awareness is governed (strengthened or weakened) by the individual’s state-of-mind. Some state-of-mind situations are obvious while others can be subtle. Ask yourself if the following can affect a person’s awareness: Complacency – “I have done this a hundred times before and really don’t need to think about it”; Fatigue - poor physical health, not getting enough sleep prior to work demands; Being Rushed - behind schedule, change from dispatch, breakdowns; Being Angry or Frustrated - just count the possible ways. These state-of-mind situations can dull

one’s awareness; and when you are no longer aware that the “gun” is loaded, you are an accident waiting to happen. When we examine the injuries that affect professional truck drivers, we find that lack of awareness

ISSUE 3, 2012 |

caused their mind to be off the task, or their eyes were diverted from the task and/or attention and grip and/or balance was lost. These are the incident’s root cause analysis and a very high percentage can be traced to lost awareness. Managers, dispatchers, supervisors and

owners also need to recognize their role in situations where they can be responsible for stealing the awareness of others through creating or inducing frustration, anger, or rushing. Simply stated; when someone is really upset, their safety awareness is dulled and they now present a danger to themselves, others and company assets. It takes both knowledge and awareness

to be in control; and if you are not in control, then someone or something else is. I would like to think that when I meet a big-rig on the roadway, the driver is sharply aware of everything.

Kevin Ernst is the Motor Carriers of Montana safety director.


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