Safety Matters – Know Your Environment
BY NYAXOASI ZIKPI-DORDOR

Environmental science and environmental studies were subjects we used to study in the past. Those subjects have been replaced with some other ones. Well, that is not the focus of discussion for today but it’s just to bring your mind to the focus of our discussion. In today’s discussion, I am going to talk about environment. It is extremely important to know your environment in order to ensure your personal safety and the safety of those around you.

I am not going to give dictionary definition of what environment is. Your environment can be your house, inside your car, inside a plane, your office, the street, school, hospital. Generally speaking, it refers to wherever you find yourself at a given time. It does not have to necessarily be an enclosure.

Apart from your house and perhaps your car which are considered your most immediate environments and which you’re very familiar with, you need to be given orientation on those other environments that are a bit remote to you.

Let’s look at a few examples: when you board a flight, a flight attendant would explain to you all the safety measures you need to take during an emergency. For instance, he would show you all the emergency exit points on the flight, emphasising that you must use the nearest one during an emergency. When you work in an office setting, your employer owes it a duty to conduct you around your new environment (workplace).

This is called induction or orientation. During this program, you would be taken around the building or the facility and be shown the various departments, location of the washroom, emergency alarms, exit points, Assembly Points, sprinklers, smoke detectors, etc. This is meant to acquaint you with your new environment so that in case of an emergency, you won’t be found wanting. If your new employer has not done this, you may want to find out as to why.

When new students are admitted, they first undergo orientation programmes to help them familiarize themselves with the school environment. I recall very well how a guy, who reported late way back in college, ended up in the ladies’ washroom simply because there was no label indicating female washroom. It was quite an embarrassment for him.

It is not for any reason that there are tour guides at our tourist sites. They are the first point of call when you arrive at the facility. They give you a short talk about the environment. And they accompany you around the facility.

This practice is not limited to tourist sites. When students go on excursion or individuals visit some manufacturing plants that are into hazardous activities, there is a Health and Safety officer who would take them through a short talk. This briefing is to help acquaint them with the environment before they embark on their tour.

This is the standard that must be applied at all times. So, when next you board a long bus, look for the nearest exit point on the bus.

Many of us do not look out for emergency exit points when we enter big facilities such as malls, big hospitals, etc. when you enter such facilities, you must quickly scan around for emergency exit points. It’s not always the case that nearest emergency exit point leads to Assembly Point. However, some complex buildings do have more than one Assembly point. Therefore, it is also good to look for the Assembly Point before even entering the building so that in the event that you hear the emergency alarm, you will immediately find your way out to the Assembly Point.

When you know your environment well enough, there are chances that you can easily manoeuvre your way around the facility in case of an emergency. Apart from that, when you know your environment, you can easily identify at least some of the hazards and risks so that you can avoid them.
So, you see how important knowing your environment is to your personal safety. Let me emphasize again, that knowing your environment at any given time allures to your personal safety. Remember; don’t underestimate anything however insignificant it may appear to you.

TIP: Always look for the Assembly Point and Emergency Exit when you’re in the premises of a new facility.

References:
www.hse.gov.uk
www.osha.gov
www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe
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