Maintaining situational awareness in the face of all the dangers lurking in our daily lives is hard enough, but doing so on a job site is often more difficult because of booby traps we have installed in the name of safety—notably, such things as head and hearing protection.
Lord knows how many deaths or serious injuries are prevented each year by hardhats. Neither is there doubt that earplugs and Mickey Mouse muffs have been godsends in preventing hearing damage, but they come with price tags: distraction and isolation from the unexpected hazards of the job site that can lead to dismemberment and even death. It’s an insidious situation made worse when teamed with other distractions, such as walkie-talkies, cell phones, iPods, or MP3 players.
Of course, you are going to insist that your people wear protective gear. Of course, you are going to load them up with the accoutrements related to safety and productivity. So where does that leave you? Between a rock and a hard spot with a job only partly done. The answer is a matter of resolution on your part to preach the gospel of situational awareness in daily reminders in the form of signs, lunchbox meetings, walk-by encouragements on the hazards and pitfalls of the job site—those both general and site-specific—and the absolute need for your workers to keep their heads out of their tailpipes.