Have you ever seen the episode of The Simpsons when Ned Flanders is discussing the difference between apple cider and apple juice? Homer’s brain floats away saying, “You can stay but I’m leaving.” We can all relate. When our brains get bored, we zone out. That’s why, at Lewis, we’re learning a situational awareness tool called “scan and focus.”
Scan first because it’s easier to move from scanning to focusing than vice versa. While scanning, ask, “If something were to go wrong, what would I see first?” and then look for that.
Focus next to see detail. Selective attention is like a spotlight. When we concentrate on a particular area, it can actually appear brighter with increased contrast. Conversely, we physically do not see what we don’t pay attention to (i.e., inattentional blindness). We only notice things in our periphery if they have meaning for us, but we still don’t notice the details.
The scan and focus tool is useful for spotters to identify hazards for themselves, crew members, and the general public. A spotter should always ask, “What can I see that my trimmer or driver can’t see? What do I know that would help them accomplish their mission/keep them safe?” When it comes to spotting, there’s no such thing as overcommunication.
Lastly, spotting should not be a stationary job. Spotters should move between a few, safe locations and establish a scan rotation for what to check and in what order. By taking a couple of steps forward, back, left, or right, we trick our brains into thinking we are seeing something new.
We encourage everyone to use the scan and focus tool to spot problems before they happen, notice new details, and avoid zoning out.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 edition of the UAA Utility Arborist Newsline.