Listening Can Save a Life

Originally published on Aug. 16, 2016

Listening is key to building a strong safety culture. It’s as important as your hard hat, gloves, vests, boots, glasses and tools.

Listening to each other

Pay close attention during toolbox talks, foremen meetings, pre-task planning sessions and orientations. Ask questions. Don’t leave the meeting until:

  • You fully understand what is expected of you,
  • You know the possible hazards on the job you will be doing, and
  • You know how to overcome those hazards.

Pay attention to what others will be doing as well. Your safety, and the safety of others, could depend on knowing what will be going on around you.

Listening to the sounds of equipment

Construction sites are filled with various sounds and noises. Be alert to those sounds. Don’t become so accustomed to hearing them or so distracted that you tune them out. Your individual safety could easily depend on your ability to hear approaching danger. Listen for horns, back up signals, spotters, vehicles or warnings from co-workers.

Also keep in mind that, in most cases, a tool or a piece of equipment will signal its pending breakdown by a change in the normal operating sound. Workers on the site should condition themselves to pick up these advance warning signals and fix or replace the tool or piece of equipment before the total breakdown to prevent a possible safety hazard.

Follow these tips to help you listen better and stay alert on the job:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Don’t concentrate so hard on the task at hand that you block out the sounds and activity around you.
  • Eat balanced, healthy meals. Overeating or eating the wrong foods can cause you to become drowsy.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs. Even some prescription drugs can have an effect on your ability to concentrate. If you must take prescription drugs, let your supervisor know. There may be projects that you cannot safely do while taking your prescription.
  • Be sure your work area is well ventilated.
  • Avoid playing radios so loud that you can’t hear what’s going on around you. Using earbuds with individual radios and other electronic devices can prevent you from hearing what’s going on around you.

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