How Observant Are You- The Dollar Bill Exercise (Safety Talk)
We live in fast times- both at home and work. With everything going on around us between stressors and the distractions of our environments, it is easy to glance over the small details. When we miss the small details at work we begin to lose focus on addressing hazards that can lead to injuries. A quick exercise can demonstrate how easy it is to lose sight of the small details.
Dollar Bill Exercise
We have all handled dollar bills throughout life, more than likely you have one in your pocket now. Without pulling one out, give me some descriptions of a one dollar bill. (The audience will probably name 6 to 8 things about dollar bills. After they start having trouble naming things, either ask them to pull out a dollar bill or put one on a projector screen. After the audience is looking at one ask again for details. More than likely they will continue to name basic details. Once they start slowing down begin to point out the endless amount if features on a dollar bill. You can easily name 40 different things, get creative and obscure with your observations to demonstrate how small the details can be. If you want to have a longer discussion, refer to the information in this article- http://www.onedollarbill.org/decoding.html. Use the article to discuss how we can be misinterpreting or missing information from the world around us from not paying attention or not being informed. For example, you can talk about what the letters stand for in the serial number and relate it back to being informed about what certain symbols mean on an equipment label).
So what does this exercise tell us about observations and glancing over the small details? Just like a dollar bill, we see our work areas every day. What details are we not paying attention to? What hazards are we either missing or being complacent with? What details or information are we missing in our work procedures?
The honest answer is probably more than we want to admit.
How Can We Improve Our Observations?
First we need to take the proper time to do a thorough observation of objects, tools, equipment, and the work environment for a work task. Being observant is a skill, but we also need to make a conscious effort to dedicate time to evaluate the work area around us. Walk around your work area view it from different perspectives. Focus on details that you normally skim over. Use past experiences, lessons learned, safety shares, or training to identify potential hazards. Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes such as a safety manager or supervisor. What things in the work area would they have an issue with or want corrected? Really get picky about the details of your work environment. Be honest about what is a hazard in your work area and what it would take to fix it. The little details are what lead to many of injuries and incidents.