Written by Phil Sliwa, ATC Occupational Health Trainer

Often, when we get stuck in the same routine day in and day out, we start to get comfortable in the scenarios that play out. What we forget is this routine can change in an instant. Not being prepared for this change can have serious consequences.

Complacency is our biggest threat in this scenario. It is having a sense of self-satisfaction and security—or “been there, done that” syndrome. Complacency leads to us being unaware of danger and having decreased focus on the Smith System Keys.

For us to avoid these dangers, it is crucial to have proper situational awareness. This means being aware of our surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations. 

This is more of a mindset than a skill. Ignorance of potential danger makes it unlikely that you will see the threat. You must recognize that dangerous situations exist, even in the most routine places.

We must process the information we gather so we can make a smart and safe decision

What are the five main stages of situational awareness?


In shock, unable to function.

High Alert

Confirmed threat, need to take action.

Focused Awareness

Carefully observing a potential danger.

Relaxed Awareness

Paying attention, but enjoying life.

Tuned Out

Unaware of surroundings.

To avoid an accident when you arrive at a destination or start a new task, keep these three Keys from Smith System Keys in mind:
  • Key 1: Evaluate the situation
  • Key 2: Look for potential hazards
  • Key 4: Think of how that hazard can be avoided and how you will handle the situation
situational awareness

Tips for Situational Awareness:

  1. Stay in the “focused awareness” state when working; this will allow you to process dangerous situations faster and quickly make decisions. 
  2. Scan areas as you approach them and look for potential hazards (such as pallets, cases, ice, slick surfaces, etc.). 
  3. Get proper rest and take breaks. Being tired will only add to complacency.
  4. Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE), as this will help you stay in your proper mindset. 
  5. When you get complacent, get creative and think of threats and how you would react to them in your situation. 

Enjoy this blog? Want more information about joining the Dot Transportation team?

Fill out this form and the Dot Transportation recruiting team will get in touch with you!