Situational Awareness is Critical When Working at Heights

Being aware of your surroundings is always important.  But, we’ve all seen people with their eyes and ears focused on their phones, seemingly oblivious to the world around them.  Being aware of what is happening around you—or having situational awareness—helps ensure that you aren’t exposed to danger, and it keeps you mentally focused on the task at hand.  In military terms, this concept is referred to as “Keeping Your Head on a Swivel.”

Situational awareness is especially critical when working at heights.  Consider this scenario: a worker was asked to troubleshoot an air conditioning unit on top of a 12-foot-high facility.  The worker gathered up the tools he needed and gained access to the roof via the roof access hatch.  When the worker located the unit, it was only 3 feet from the edge of the roof.  During numerous phone and radio calls to troubleshoot the issue, the worker kept pacing back and forth around the unit. In a last-ditch effort to solve the problem, the worker called a friend who had extensive knowledge of this type of unit.

As the worker focused on the phone conversation, his situational awareness dropped.  He took two to three steps and fell off the roof, impacting the ground 12 feet below. Thankfully, the worker survived the fall, but he suffered numerous broken bones.

When working at heights, remember these important tips:

  •  Always survey your surroundings to identify risks
  •  Make mental notes about the area you are working in and what issues could occur
  •  Never work alone when working at heights. Always use the “buddy system.”

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