Awareness is such a basic concept that many people don’t consider its daily impact—they assume that they’re always “aware”. However, awareness is not synonymous with self-awareness and is not “switched on” at all times. This becomes particularly obvious during repetitive actions or when performing tasks we have a lot of experience with.
Driving past a stop sign without even realizing it is a perfect example of being so comfortable with a task that we become less aware of it until we make a potentially dangerous error. It happens on the road, at home and at work—the mind wanders or distractions take over, sometimes making people completely miss a hazard or ignore it.
According to Jack Jackson’s article “The Safety Benefits of Awareness and Human Factors Training” in dp-PRO Magazine, this is a common problem:
Safety and awareness go hand in hand, especially when it comes to industries that have a higher risk of serious injuries and fatalities (…). There is also an obvious link between unfocused work and mistakes that cause damage to property, equipment or utility lines.
Conversely, when people’s minds are focused on a task and their awareness is up, they will be more likely to spot hazards and keep themselves and others safe. But nobody can just tell someone to be more aware or more mindful of what they’re doing. This is where training comes in.
In his article, Jackson reminds readers that once compliance requirements are met, organizations should focus on helping employees develop skills that will help them concentrate on what they’re doing and to avoid distraction. But this is something that requires practice. As Jackson says:
Awareness is like a muscle—no one can build it for you, just as no one can force you to pay attention to safety issues. But with the right training and support, it’s possible to learn to focus on the right things and, in the end, improve one’s safety awareness.
The article outlines the most common causes of distraction and highlights the importance of relevant training. Human factors training, for example, provides an additional level of protection that could prevent attention lapses and incidents caused by fatigue or rushing.
To learn more about this subject and read and download the full article, click here.