Maintaining Situational Awareness During the COVID-19 Pandemic

September 21, 2020

Narrowing of attention is a normal human attribute often caused by difficult work or changes and can lead us to miss hazards around us.

  • It’s like a spotlight focused on our task
  • Everything outside of the spotlight becomes harder to see
  • We can stop seeing hazards, changes, and alternatives
  • It happens to us automatically

We are being asked to wear different types of PPE to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 exposure. 

This narrows our attention spotlight by:

  • Focusing on a specific aspect of work
  • Work becomes more difficult than imagined
  • Things may go wrong or different than expected
  • It is unusual to wear this PPE
  • It is compounded by fatigue, distraction, or complacency.
  • How might having to wear additional or different PPE narrow our attention?
  • Not used to wearing PPE most of the time / in certain locations
  • Distraction from having to wear
  • Extra time to don / doff PPE
  • Extra effort needed for cleaning/disinfection
  • Running out of PPE supplies
  • What can we do to better manage this?
  • Take a break, take the time to clear your head.
  • Do a thorough walk/talk-through of the task steps of what you want to get done.
  • Identify and manage challenges to completing work, accounting for additional PPE

The SLAM Technique often works well to manage your awareness and consists of four simple steps:

  • STOP – Engage your mind before your hands. Look at the task in front of you
  • LOOK – At your workplace and find the hazards that are present to you and your workmates. Report hazards immediately to your EHS champion and supervisor.
  • ASSESS – The effects that the hazards will have upon you, the people you work with, equipment, procedures, pressures, and the environment around you. Ask yourself if you have the proper tools, training, and PPE to perform the task safely. Do this with a coworker or supervisor.
  • MANAGE – If you feel that the situation is unsafe, stop working. Tell your coworker, manager, or client. Where needed call in your EHS champion. Discuss what actions are needed to make the situation safe.