Situational Awareness has always been important to me, even before I had ever heard the words in relation to safety management.
I've got a nice fairly cushy job, compared to what I used to do when I was younger. The easiest day I ever had fishing was harder than the average hard day in my current job. Routine for me has always been both comfort and curse. I hate realizing when my situational awareness has slipped.
I grew up knowing that my father was living on borrowed time. That colored everything in my life. Between age 12 and my late 30's, I was woken up in the middle of the night at least 20 times to meet everyone and possibly say my goodbyes. When my wife and I were first married, and her asshole friends would call from Brazil in the middle of the night just to say hi, I once threatened to leave her if she didn't turn her phone off when we went to bed. It took a while for her to understand. Couple of late night phone calls on MY phone changed that, seeing me in fight-or-flight, outwardly calm, but very directed, you know? that and a couple of 'stop calling at night or I'm going to end up divorced' calls on her side of things stopped that shit too.
More than anything else, I'd get angry at my reaction to these events. I'd be mad at myself for not being prepared better for them, despite long practice.
Whether it's sleep or just the appalling drone of long routine, when something breaks through the fug and brings on Full Awareness, it's astonishing how negative it makes you feel about yourself, even when you've been relatively good at maintaining situational awareness. You tend to focus on what you didn't see, and that holds true in a professional capacity, as well, and we've all been there, when you realize that you've been smelling burnt insulation or scorched oil for a minute, but it takes longer than it should have (as in it wasn't instant) to realize that action is needed.
Situational awareness is one of those concepts that is, while not downplayed, not always emphasized enough, in my opinion. You can't legislate love, or safety-mindedness, it has to be user-driven. Situational awareness, too.
I have a better-than average record for safe, complete cargo transfers. I've had some near misses, and a direct hit, like everyone, but I'm very proud of my record there, and I credit much of that to good training and an emphasis on situational awareness, taught by men whose efforts I didn't always appreciate at the time.
The Cake, one of the chief mates I worked with on a tanker, was one of those guys. I didn't always treat the guy with the respect he always deserved, and I truly regret that. I had a mad-on for the guy because I thought that he was oblivious to the impact of morale on his crew. In the years since I last worked with or saw him, I realized that he was suppressing his own sympathy and empathy for his crew, trying to get a difficult job done on a ship that was circling the drain for reasons out of the crew's control. I am ashamed of myself because I should have seen it; emotional maturity lags behind the physical, I guess. I regret never truly apologizing to the man. My lack of awareness cost me a fantastic opportunity to learn more about my job.
Today I luxuriated in a late sleep- I didn't have to set my alarm. At 0730ish, I realized that I'd been smelling hot lube oil for a little bit, and when it finally got through to me, I shot outside and into the generator house like an underwear-clad watermelon seed squeezed between two fingers. The rear main seal on one of our generators had let go, and lube oil was dripping right into the damn fan shroud at the radiator, there to be scattered on the four winds all over the deck, bulkheads and overhead in the generator house.
So that was my morning.
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