A Practical Approach to Situational Awareness

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How many of us have taken a leisurely stroll down an open sidewalk, only to stumble over a slightly raised slab of concrete?  Or have returned home after a long day, only to realize you remember nothing of the drive? Or maybe you’ve went an entire show never noticing cases stacked in front of the stairs, the chain on the back door, and the gaping hole in the floor? In each of these cases, we are physically present, but not situationally aware.

Situational awareness (SA), is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about your environment. More simply, it's knowing what is going on around you, and recognizing when things aren’t “right”.  SA is one of the most important tools in your safety toolkit. Many incidents can be easily avoided if one is aware of hazards and their potential consequences.

Situational awareness is not automatic. To be situationally aware one must actively and continuously assess their physical and emotional environment. Key to this assessment is asking questions relevant to your role and its place within the overall operation.  One practical method of improving awareness is the use of checklists designed to guide workers in asking the right questions and identifying the appropriate response.

One example of a situational awareness checklist is below. This particular example is designed to address four areas of an operation  - the worker (personal), the team (departmental), the company (organizational), and the audience. Depending upon the circumstances of your event, your checklist may include additional questions and/or sections.

Situational Awareness Checklist

Personal SA

  • Am I feeling 100%?

  • Is there anything personal preventing me from being fully focused on my task today that may distract me from being safe?

  • Do I understand my task for the day and any special considerations unique to the day?

  • Do I have all proper information/equipment/tools/PPE to do the job?

  • Am I aware of where I am, emergency exists, safe shelter & first aid?

  • Am I constantly on the lookout for unsafe behavior, equipment and unrecognized items?

  • Do I know what to do if I see something concerning?

  • Am I keeping emergency exits, power panels and fire extinguishers accessible?

  • Am I taking any action which may impede or endanger anyone?

Departmental SA

  • Has the team communicated internally about the day and any special considerations which may alter the routine (tool box talk)?

  • Does everyone appear focused and ready to do the job safely?

  • Have we given the local support/labor our needs tool box talk?

  • Do we have the proper information/equipment/tools/ppe to do the job?

  • Do we have a safe plan to work through/around any situational nuances?

  • Does everyone know where they are and have a team awareness for safety considerations?

  • Are we keeping emergency exits, power panels and fire extinguishers accessible?

  • Is the department taking any actions which may impede or endanger anyone?

Organizational SA

  • Does everyone seem fit and prepared?

  • Do I or my team need to adjust for unique company wide considerations?

  • Are there special considerations affecting everyone today?

  • Has the company communicated daily unique operational considerations/tool box talk?

  • Has the company communicated emergency considerations: safe shelter, first aid, weather plan?

  • Is the company keeping emergency exits/power panels and fire extinguishers accessible?

  • Is the company taking any actions which may impede or endanger?

Audience SA

  • Am I aware of what to do to alert emergency assistance?

  • Am I paying attention to the audience near my space?

  • Are ushers/security teams being mindful or aggravating of audience safety?

  • Is the audience behaving in a way which may cause harm?

Shelby Cude