HSE 176 Achieving situation awareness (FINNISH)

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  • Published: July 2009
  • Edition: 1st
  • Status: Current


Achieving situation awareness is a tool aimed at improving worker’s decision making, in order to help them assess risks locally and at short notice.  It is found that, unaided, people tend to overestimate their ability to deal with risk, such as their ability to drive whilst tired.  This leads to people making bad decisions that can result in accidents.

This tool uses a simple technique to help people recognise when a normal situation has the potential to become dangerous. The basic premise takes only a few minutes to understand, and is concurrent with the normal traffic light system:

RED = Stop

AMBER = Proceed with caution

GREEN = Go ahead

Importantly, the tool encourages the user to think carefully about the consequences of too many ‘ambers’ and when this means a necessary halt to operations. Accidents rarely happen because of a single catastrophic failure, except when that failure is at the end of a chain of non-catastrophic failures and organisational oversights. The Rule of Three (red, amber, green) means that risks are no longer considered in isolation, but together to minimise incidents.

How to use

Achieving situation awareness can help develop the competence of supervisors and workers to plan work safely.

Build the Rule of Three into everyday operations. Train workers and supervisors to use it before starting potentially risky operations, and to understand what are their ‘ambers’ and what are their ‘reds’. Lastly, ensure the Rule of Three is accepted and decisions (e.g. to stop work) that result from its use are respected and upheld.

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