What Is the Human Factor Lack of Awareness
The Human Factor Lack of Awareness is the “dead end” that many other Human Factors lead to. It happens when you are:
- Stressed out;
- Tired and fatigued;
- Under pressure; and
- Distracted by something.
Basically, loss of awareness means you are not aware of your situation. It is the equivalent of “driving blind” or “tunnel vision.” When you are not aware of your environment, your behavior, or other employees’ behaviors, bad things can happen.
Common Feelings That Demonstrate Lack of Awareness
One of the things that is particularly frustrating about Lack of Awareness is related to the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” When you are unaware, it’s hard to know that you are unaware.
One of the first indicators of lack of situational awareness involves a feeling. If you are feeling any of the following, it’s a good indication that your awareness of your situation may be unsafe:
- You are feeling pressure to complete a task;
- You are feeling tired, heavy, or lazy;
- You are feeling very satisfied with how you are accomplishing a task;
- You are feeling better about your mission as you get closer to being finished, such as in the case of feeling safer as your aircraft nears its destination;
- You are more interested is something other than your task at hand (such as a conversation with a coworker); or
- You feel anxiety about your task.
Common Behaviors That Demonstrate Lack of Awareness
These feelings eventually lead to specific behaviors that clearly show lack of awareness, such as:
- Rushing to complete your work;
- Skipping or cutting procedure/checklist steps to complete;
- Having trouble keeping your eyes open or focused;
- Moving through your task unnaturally slowly;
- Not remembering what you just did, like when you are driving and you suddenly realize you don’t remember the last 60 second; or
- Having a conversation with coworkers while you are completing important tasks.
Causes of Lack of Awareness in Aviation Safety
The causes of lack of situational awareness can be caused by the following, some of which we have discussed:
- You are feeling stressed out, tired, distracted, or under pressure;
- You aren’t comfortable performing this task;
- You don’t want to be doing this task;
- You feel that you have done it so many times that you can’t possibly mess it up; and
- You’ve never been in this situation before (think, your first day on the job).
You will notice that a common theme in Lack of Awareness is:
- Heightened emotional response to situation (positive or negative response); or
- Very muted interest level to situation.
What these themes tell us is that a good indicator of lack of awareness is if you are feeling strong emotions, whether they are good or bad, or feeling very little interest in your situation
How to Overcome Complacency
Fighting complacency involves cultivating vigilance. In this case, vigilance means vigilance of your own feelings and behavior, as well as vigilance of others behaviors.
Some ways to help yourself practice vigilance are:
- Use aviation safety checklists;
- Have detailed understanding of procedures;
- Immediately stop what you are doing (if able) and reassess your situation when you notice you are falling into lack of awareness;
- Trust but verify your work; and
- If applicable, report what happened to your safety manager – if many employees are struggling to stay vigilant on a given task, it indicates that the environment needs changing.
Lack of Awareness is something we all struggle with. It’s helpful to check in with yourself and be aware of your feelings. It’s also helpful to check in with fellow employees if you notice that they aren’t quite as attuned to their situation as they should be.