There’s a law against it. There are procedures to prevent it. There’s even a checklist to show that you prepared for it.
And when it comes to real life, if you aren’t thinking about it, are you ever really safe?
Probably not, because procedures, regulations and checklists don’t make people aware of dangers as situations change.
The key is something called situational awareness.
Suppose you are a jet test pilot. You will be flying jets that may not have been tested or may have only been tested a few times. Danger is present at every moment and the pilots must be acutely aware of their situation from second to second.
But suppose you are a pilot who has flown the same plane hundreds of times. Or you are a construction worker who has worked on scaffolds thousands of times, or a painter who has used the same ladder a hundred times. What is your level of situational awareness now? You might assume the ladder is safe, that the scaffold is properly constructed, or that the plane is reliable. But in a second, the situation can change.
Cory Worden, safety advisor the the City of Houston Department of Health, says workers might train themselves to think as fighter pilots do:
OBSERVE: See changes in conditions, hazards or threats.
ORIENT: Remember and consider what you can do to counter the hazards.
DECIDE: On the best path of prevention or action.
ACT: Take the best path now.
When you think about it, these steps can apply to any situation and any potential hazard, from walking in a dark parking tower to working on a highway construction site. A situation that seems safe could instantly change with traffic, weather, pedestrians, the use of heavy equipment — any distraction or change in conditions.