Take a Pause for Safety

Jul 9th, 2018 | By | Category: Health and Safety

Your brain is constantly processing ideas, thoughts, plans, experiences, and memories.  Coupled with the fast pace of daily life, your mind can seem too full. Do you remember to leave space for safety thoughts to prevent accidents during the hurry of the moment?

How about taking a “Safety Pause?”  Use that second of time to scan the work environment and assess potential hazards that are lurking around you.  Call it a “safety snapshot.”  In that pause, think about your collective experiences and how to guard against potential danger and avoid hurt.  I call it a gut check – when instinct tells you something is not right and should be avoided.

To help you rewire your mind and TAP into safety use this simple approach:

T = Take time for safety

A = Alert yourself to hazards

P = Protect yourself


Take Time for Safety

It is to everyone’s advantage to take time to be safe.  What does that look like?  You have time for what you value. You prioritize time based on the value. We value our income, our families and our health. We really do want to be safe.  We can take a site-specific review of our job site and write down hazards including how to fix or avoid them. What can we expect during a routine day of doing business? More importantly, what about the unexpected and how can we plan or adjust to it?  What is Plan B and C?   Maybe Plan D? This may only take five minutes but it’s is well worth your time to stay on track and arrive home safely.  Take a safety pause and listen.


Alert Yourself to Hazards

There was a TV show in the 1960s called “Lost in Space,” where the Robinson family was lost in space for three years and attempted to return to Earth. Two of the key characters were Will Robinson and a trusty, dependable robot. In their adventures the dependable robot remarked when approaching a potential hazard, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger.”  I can still hear that robot voice which alerted him to a possible hazard. The warning for Will Robinson was to escape before it was too late. We all possess an inner voice that can tell us when something is not right. In many cases, listening to that inner voice can help us avoid possible dangers. In other cases, we may have an experienced friend, crew member, coworker, or past safety training telling you, “Danger, (insert your name), Danger.”   Take a safety pause and listen.


Protect Yourself

I am a safety officer in the wildland fire organization Incident Command System (ICS). One season on a large wildfire I witnessed crew members returning to camp with burns/injury to their lower limbs. These severe injuries were caused by walking over areas of ground that collapsed as a result of underground burning root systems extending beyond burned out stump holes.  In the “heat of the moment,” they had not stopped to evaluate the potential risk of stepping on the fragile ground above a burning root system. I learned an important lesson that day – scan your work area for potential hazards before rushing in. Also, if you’re unfamiliar with your surroundings or work situation, it’s important to seek advice from other people who can help you identify and evaluate the safety risks. Request a safety briefing from someone who is familiar with the surroundings, the work environment, and the planned job tasks before you find yourself in a situation where it is too late to avoid harm. Take a safety pause and listen.


About the Author

Timothy Benedict, retired from the U.S. Forest Service with 37 years of combined experience serving in positions as Forester, Safety Officer, District Ranger, and Fire Management Officer.  He obtained certification as a Safety and Health Official (CSHO) from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Photograph: Fire Fighter Series 2 by Julia Eisenberg.

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