A key component of staying safe in any walk of life is being aware of the dangers around you – what psychologists call ‘situational awareness’.
Situational awareness has been identified by organisations like the US Air Force as a crucial factor in safety, and they spend millions of dollars on equipment and training for support teams and pilots – when you’re flying a plane through a war zone at hundreds of miles per hour (and there are jets capable of flying at more than 2,000 mph), there are obvious reasons to develop extremely high levels of situational awareness.
Dr Amy Irwin from the Industrial Psychology Research Centre at the University of Aberdeen is researching the human factor when it comes to situational awareness in farming because it is such a high-risk industry. She looked at how farm workers use their non-technical skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication, awareness, decision-making and task management. Unsurprisingly, the less engaged a person is, i.e. the less aware they are of the situation they’re in, the more likely they are to have an accident.
The farming industry is hugely concerned about the disproportionate number of injuries and fatal accidents that happen on the farm. In 2014, the Farm Safety Foundation was set up to try and change young farmers’ attitudes towards farm safety. But the NFU has highlighted the fact that half of all farm fatalities occur in people over the age of 65. The reasons for this aren’t clear – it could be down to a decline in agility or situational awareness, or possibly even a belief that, having survived this long, they think they must be invincible.
What we can take from this is that greater situational awareness has to be encouraged. One way of doing this is by using signage to raise awareness of the dangers on a farm. If your warning signs have been in place a long time, people may have stopped noticing them, so do something different in order to attract attention – by moving them slightly, washing them or replacing them.
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