Using Situational Awareness on the Jobsite

Construction SiteIn part one and part two of the situational awareness blog series, we defined situational awareness and referenced its use in do-it-yourself projects. In this final installment of the series, we discuss how the use of situational awareness can save lives on the jobsite.

Most of us take on the responsibility of a job or career knowing that we will spend approximately eight hours per day on the jobsite. Each day, as we enter our jobsite, many of us proceed directly to our workspace without being aware of what is happening around us. Just as situational awareness (SA) can save our lives in daily situations, SA can save our lives on the job.

You may find yourself in a situation in which you are working in an area that may present the possibility of airborne exposures to harmful materials, such as asbestos. You may not be in direct contact with asbestos, but you may be in close proximity to an area where a possible asbestos containing material (ACM) is being disturbed, putting you at risk of exposure.

The jobsite pictured above contains many possible exposures, as many tasks are happening simultaneously.

When you enter a jobsite such as the one pictured, it is important to use situational awareness and take the first few moments on the site to focus on yourself and your safety. For example, first responders are trained to use situational awareness every time they are called, and they are required to use the first 10-30 seconds upon entering a scene to focus on themselves and how their surroundings may affect them.

The first few moments on the jobsite should be spent evaluating your surroundings, observing the tasks that are happening, materials that are being used, potential byproducts being created, workers that are in the area, and machinery that is present. If you have any questions from this evaluation period, do not start working until you have spoken with your immediate supervisor.

Today, workers have adopted a “Safety Culture” thought process. Situational awareness is an important piece of this culture. Examples include:

  1. Complex situations are better thought out
  2. Chains of command are established
  3. Toxic exposures are reduced
  4. There is less fear of job hazards and toxic exposures
  5. An emergency plan is thought out

A few of the positive outcomes from incorporating SA into your daily work schedule are:

  1. A safer work environment
  2. Less toxic exposures
  3. Proactive, NOT reactive, decision making
  4. Cost savings for your employers
  5. Healthier employees

To learn more about utilizing situational awareness, please read part one of this blog series. For information regarding the use of situational awareness during do-it-yourself projects, please read part two.

Using Situational Awareness in DIY Project Safety

Home Repair“Do it yourself” (DIY) projects are those that you undertake on your own without the help of experienced professionals. Commonly, a DIY project may include building, repairing, home improvement, or maintenance activities. While this type of project can be enjoyable, cost-effective, and so on, it comes with a risk of exposure to hazardous materials such as asbestos. It is important that you are aware of what you may encounter and know how to handle it. Before you begin a DIY project, incorporate the concept of situational awareness into your safety plan.

In the first part of this three-part blog series, Situational Awareness was defined as the concept of knowing and being aware of what is around you. Before you start any project, make a plan that includes situational awareness and our STOP-LOOK-THINK method, which is outlined below:

Engage your thought process before you act, and evaluate the situation. For example, do not begin to knock down a wall without considering the materials that may be let loose into the air. Is there a chance that asbestos is present? Here are some indicators for identifying possible asbestos in your home:

  • Homes built before 1980
  • Cement roofing, shingles and siding
  • Electrical meters and wiring
  • Cement sheeting both internal and external walls
  • Pipe insulation
  • HVAC insulation
  • Vinyl flooring and tile glue/ Mastic
  • Linoleum flooring
  • Chimney Flues
  • Textured ceilings
  • Insulation
  • Insulation and gaskets on older furnaces

Scan the entire space for possible hazards.

  • Know how to identify possible asbestos-containing products.
  • Are there any noticeably hazardous materials present?
  • If you suspect hazardous materials, consult a state EPA certified trained professional for removal.
  • Keep a journal and diagram of all possible asbestos-containing materials.

Consider the consequences of venturing into unsafe conditions and determine the proper safety equipment.

  • Understand the consequences of improper asbestos removal and disposal.
  • Know the risks that are associated with asbestos exposure, including diseases such as mesothelioma.
  • Consider that you are not only putting yourself at risk, but also those nearby or in contact with you.
  • Improper disposal or dumping of asbestos products may cause asbestos exposures and disease for decades.

There is nothing more satisfying than sitting back and enjoying the end result of a DIY project. This can be made even more satisfying if you know that the project was completed with ALL of the proper safety measures. Upon project completion, we have our before and after pictures on which to look back, but it is the time between the photos that is truly important. If proper safety measures were not used, the time spent on the project could have negative consequences, notably on your health. Asbestos exposure can ultimately lead to mesothelioma diagnoses if proper care is not taken during projects. This is why we want to focus on preventing asbestos exposure during DIY projects through the use of situational awareness and the STOP-LOOK-THINK method.

If you think a product may contain asbestos, treat it as asbestos until proven otherwise!

Click here to read part one of the situational awareness blog series. To learn more about our prevention program, visit

New Prevention Education Brochures Available

Prevention BrochureThe Meso Foundation would like to announce the arrival of our new prevention education brochure, Preventing Mesothelioma: How to Minimize and Avoid Exposures to Asbestos.

The new brochure provides information about preventing asbestos exposure and answers questions such as the following:

  • What is the role of prevention?
  • Why is asbestos dangerous?
  • Why is asbestos still an issue today?
  • Where is asbestos present in the home?
  • Am I at risk of asbestos exposure?
  • What is secondary exposure?
  • Who makes up the high risk population?

The brochure is part of our larger asbestos and prevention program. Within the program, we also offer informational classes for at-risk groups. These meetings, similar in structure to town hall meetings, educate those concerned about public exposure via abatement processes, construction projects, naturally occurring asbestos, and other areas.

To request brochures or to schedule an informational class, contact Diane Blackburn-Zambetti at (877)-363-6376 x3827 or at

Learn more about the Meso Foundation’s asbestos and prevention program at

Situational Awareness is Key to Avoiding Asbestos Exposures

STOP LOOK THINKby Diane Blackburn-Zambetti, Director of Policy and Prevention Education

This article is the first of a three-part series regarding situational awareness and its application in preventing asbestos exposure:

  • Part one will address the definition of situational awareness (SA) and the areas in which SA can be applied
  • Part two will address SA in regards to encountering asbestos during DIY projects
  • Part three will address SA in regards to encountering asbestos on the jobsite

Many of you may have heard or used the term “situational awareness” without fully understanding what it means or knowing of the many areas in which this concept can be applied. At the end of this three-part series of articles, you will gain a better understanding of the term, as well as its many areas of use when it comes to preventing asbestos exposure.

Simply stated, situational awareness is the concept of knowing and being aware of what is around you. SA is an ongoing process. With this awareness and knowledge, you are less likely to be caught off guard and you will have the ability to make better decisions when needed. SA can have many applications in your everyday life. A few examples include: work, DIY projects, security, walking, and parenting. It is especially useful for recognizing the presence of asbestos before exposure.

There are five defined levels of awareness:

  1. You are in a state similar to daydreaming
  2. You are relaxed but still aware and reacting to your surroundings
  3. You are focused and aware of your surroundings and ready to react (i.e. walking on ice)
  4. You have a feeling of wide eyes and hair standing on end with your heart beating harder and faster, but you are still functioning
  5. You are no longer able to function or respond — you are “frozen”

You likely apply the practice of SA without realizing it. It is important that people are aware of their surroundings and the hazards that may be present, such as asbestos. Looking out for your own safety, as well as others nearby, is a key aspect of situational awareness.

SA can be consciously practiced and improved through the STOP-LOOK-THINK method:

STOP          Engage your thought process before you act, and evaluate the situation.

LOOK          Scan the entire space for possible hazards, both at home and at work.

THINK          Consider the consequences of venturing into unsafe conditions, and determine the proper safety equipment.

Situational awareness allows us the opportunity to make rational decisions and act before being caught off guard. In the next installment of this three-part series, we will address the practice of situational awareness in preventing asbestos exposure during DIY projects.

Thank You to Our Heroes on Memorial Day

American flagsIn 2013, we published a blog post for Memorial Day. This year, we want to take a look back at this post, as it remains important. The original post follows:

Memorial Day is the time when we honor those who served our country and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation honors those men and women who lost their lives as a result of their service, including those who served in the military and succumbed to malignant mesothelioma.

“In honor of those who have fallen victim to mesothelioma and for those who have been exposed and may develop mesothelioma in the future, the Foundation dedicates our efforts to continuing to fund peer-reviewed medical research that we hope will lead to prevention, early detection, more effective treatments and eventually a cure,” said General H. Steven Blum, a member of the Board of Directors of the Meso Foundation.

One third of mesothelioma patients worked in shipyards or are veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their time of service. Those who serve in the military often go on to careers in the public sector serving as policemen, firemen and first responders where they again suffer the insult of asbestos exposure.

General Blum last served as Deputy Commander, U.S. Northern Command in addition to serving as Vice Commander, U.S. Element North American Aerospace Defense Command.  Prior to these last positions he served as the 25th Chief of the National Guard Bureau. He retired from both the Army and National Guard in 2010.

To learn more about asbestos exposure in the military, visit