How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ve walked by that a thousand times and never noticed it?” It’s because they’re not actually seeing what has been there the whole time.
As safety professionals, most of what we do relies on seeing. Our jobs are mostly about going and looking and seeing what’s there in order to understand it and take action on what it is we’re seeing.
But sometimes things become so familiar to us that we no longer really see them.
So how do we change these tendencies, not only for ourselves, but for workers who need to really see in order to stay safe?
‘Reading’ what you see
This is where visual literacy comes in.
Visual literacy is all about thinking about what we actually see, what does what we see mean and then figuring out what we can do about it.
In the safety world, that’s what risk assessment and risk management is all about.
You see the hazard, you think about how to mitigate it and then you implement your plan to reduce the risk.
But hazards can be easy to miss, so what everyone needs to do is just slow down a little bit and take the time to really “read” what’s being seen, in the same way a piece of art should be read.
You read what you see by taking in a scene’s lines, shapes, colors, textures and space.
By analyzing each component independently, as you would a piece of art at a museum, you get a better understanding for what you’re looking at.
And that could help workers spot a hazard they may not have seen otherwise.
(Adapted from a presentation by Doug Pontsler and Glenn Murray, both of the Center of Visual Expertise, Toledo, OH, at Virtual AIHce EXP 2021)