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Awareness in Safety: Did You See It Coming?

May 27, 2015
It falls on each of us to keep our eyes, ears and instincts tuned to our own behaviors, so that we are better able to “see it coming.”

Awareness is an important element in any effort to reduce accidents and incidents.

Just what is the difference between an accident and an incident? According to the National Safety Council, an “incident” is an unexpected or unintended event that adversely affects completion of a task, while an “accident” is an unexpected or unintended event that results in property damage or personal injury. The words “unexpected” and “unintentional” give us a hint that incidents and accidents may be something over which we may have no control.

But don’t be fooled.

Near-misses result in no injury or property damage, but given a slight shift in time or place damage and/or injury might have occurred.

While there are more incidents than accidents, we need to keep in mind that, even though we may have control over some incident outcomes, there are times when outside elements take away that control. Consider the actions of other drivers, sudden weather-related events and equipment failures.

If you look closely at events in your own life that have led to injuries you will probably find that you could have had a lot to do with the consequences if only you had “seen it coming.”

That’s where awareness comes in. Too often, we pay little attention to our immediate surroundings, which provide the “it” that we didn’t see coming.

Only a small percentage of accidents and incidents can be attributed to unsafe conditions. Given the scenario that all of these unsafe conditions are removed from our lives, there is a high percentage that fall under the category of “mistakes.”

What do you expect when you are carrying out your day-to-day activities? Do you try to anticipate what can happen if you don’t keep your eyes and mind on the tasks at-hand? If you think and look just one step ahead, perhaps many potential accidents could be avoided.

It falls on each of us to keep our eyes, ears and instincts tuned to our own behaviors, so that we are better able to “see it coming.” This involves looking ahead anticipating and compensating for the unexpected just waiting to happen.

Try not to look too far ahead; you can lose sight of what is right in front of you.  When given a choice of which actions to take, follow the words of the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “You have chosen wisely.”

Joseph Werbicki is a Safety Consultant/Safety Trainer with more than 30 years of safety management experience.  He can be reached at [email protected] or 774-991-3945.

About the Author

Joseph Werbicki

Joseph Werbicki has an A.B. in chemistry from Brown University, an M.S. in chemistry from Northeastern University and has completed graduate work at the University of Maryland. Now retired, he served as manager of safety compliance at General Dynamics C4 Systems, Taunton, Mass.; environmental/safety manager at Copperweld Corp.; and as technical director at Agmet Corp. He’s presented at a number of safety conferences and had more than 40 articles published in national scientific journals.

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