The need for situational awareness | QRisk

Situational Awareness - In the workplace & beyond

The 26th of September is Situational Awareness Day, given that we teach a bit about the topic I wasn’t even aware that such a day existed. Alas, I thought it timely to write this small article on the importance of having that engaged and appropriate level of situational awareness, and not just for the 26th.

Situational awareness relates directly to risk. So, if you don’t have any “risk’ in your life then you don’t need to read on.

If, on the other hand you are of the view that time, place and circumstances dependant, we all have some level of risk to manage, either at work, in travel, or more generally in life then, having an appropriate and engaged level of situational awareness maybe something you want on your side.

And at QRisk we stand by our statement that ‘Situational awareness is the greatest skill you can acquire for your personal safety and security, nothing is more important. At work, in travel, in life”

Situational awareness is not just a theoretical notion. It is real, and its absence causes accidents, and situations to worsen through a lack of intervention and good decision making.

Approximately 85 percent of incidents reported mention a loss of situational awareness. Those numbers come from the aviation industry. I would go so far as to suggest that, in workplace accidents and those outside work, at home, on the road and beyond, then the number is likely to be higher.

If there is a human factor involved, then within that there is likely to be an absence of situational awareness.

Defining situational awareness is not hard. Whilst more detailed explanations exist I love the more simplistic one as giving to us by a young teenager in one of our courses. “It’s about knowing the situational you’re in and about stuff which might happen if you’re not careful”

Airbus describe it as having an accurate understanding of what is happening around you and what is likely to happen in the near future.

Knowing the definition and its relevance is important. Knowing how to engage it and embed it as a life skill is more important.

Identifying the risks in your environment and having a very basic, easy to learn strategy that you can use on a daily basis will help see you through most scenarios. All the way from aggressive customers in the workplace, to improving driving awareness, to hoping on a plane and traveling to any destination and getting off the beaten track. At work, in travel, in life!

Engaging the right level of situational awareness is the opposite of being fearful or paranoid about “risk”. It’s an empowering position and one of confidence. It says,

“Bad stuff happens to good people every day, but not to me. I have an understanding of my environment, I make good decisions and I acknowledge I have a controlling influence in situational outcomes. And I dismiss the notion that shit just happens”

If you want to learn more at an individual level or if you are employer that has risk in your operating environment and the above resonates and you want to give your people some real skills that have benefit in the workplace and beyond, then we should talk.


About the author

Paul is a partner at QRisk and QTraining specialising in providing risk management, training and security consultancy solutions to organisation in NZ, Australia and abroad. We provide tailored and off the shelf training programs and keynote presentations on situational awareness and people safety.


If you engage QRisk for a training session or keynote presentation on the importance of situational awareness, then we pay a significant part of the client forward to a school of your choice. We then engage with that school leadership group and provide a course for young teenagers on the importance of situational awareness and good decision-making skills. They get some real-life skills that will extend beyond the course and classroom and they will have you to thank for that. That’s powerful.

Anyone connected to a school that wants to understand critical incident readiness in a school environment then QRisk proudly recommend you get in touch with Wade Harrison @ Harrison Tew who is a leader in this space within NZ.

Paul Walsh