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O H & S | Skills Training

February 15, 2006

Health & Safety

Handle emergencies with ease, not fear

Expert advises learning to make most of situation

Eliminating fear is the best way to ensure construction site emergencies are being handled in an effective manner.

“Fear’s corporate head office is located right between our ears — and it’s our lifetime companion,” according to Steve Brass, Director of Training with Link to Life Seminars. “The greatest challenge in responding to an emergency situation is overcoming the psychological wall of fear inside ourselves.”

Since banishing fear is often impossible, Brass advises people on how to make the most of a situation it the face of fear.

“We can’t control an emergency in progress — it’s already happening,” he says. We can’t control a person who has failed to act in a safe manner. We can control the way we react.”

Brass says the things of which people are afraid are as diverse as the spectrum of workers on a construction job site. People are affected by previous experience, unfamiliarity with a situation or a variety of specific fears – of the unknown, of mistakes, of a lawsuit if they act to help someone, or of a truly dangerous situation.

“Sometimes it’s a lack of faith,” says Brass. “Faith and fear are like opposite ends of a seesaw. When faith is low, fear rides highest. We can build our faith in a number of ways, including building our knowledge base through training. We may also have to show faith in other people — our colleagues. For some people, it’s tough to relinquish control and reach out to others for help.”

But each situation is different. “We like the known,” says Brass. “Eighty per cent of what we do today is the same as what we did yesterday, so an emergency is a major change in routine — it’s quite inconvenient.”

When fear comes calling, Brass has five steps people can take to deal with it:

acknowledge the fear

take deep breaths

engage in positive self talk

focus on the goal

take action

“We rarely get a phone call that says: ‘At 10 to 12 someone is going to choke, so please get ready,’” says Brass. “Prepare yourself as best as possible.”

Brass offered his advice at the recent Construction Safety Association of Ontario’s (CSAO) 4th Annual Construction Health and Safety Conference in Toronto

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