Safety Comes First

Safety is one of the most important factors taken into account while we are condunctiong work as well as to the National Park Service as a whole. This week I was given the opportunity to attend a seminar on Operational Leadership, a program designed to instill safety and leadership to members of the Park Service. I had the pleasure of going to the Operational Leadership program with all of my coworkers from the park and also from other divisions! We spent two days going over different safety precautions of work including; situational awareness, stress, and functional vs. designator leaders. All of which are key factors of safety in the Park Service. Situational awareness is about paying attention to your surroundings. It is very easy to have tunnel vision and focus solely on the task at hand. This can apply to both your general goal for the day, by completing it by the end of the day or finishing up a task you are working on for  maybe an hour of the day. While we put all of our effort and focus to a task we can easily forgot our surroundings and the dangers that things may cause to us. For example, most of the day I spend focused on looking at the ground for artifacts and can end up blocking my surroundings out. With that in mind, it is possible for something to happen around me that I may not even be aware of. These can range from bad to severe. Something simple could be I forget to look up and don’t see a tree branch in my way or to severe where there is a mountain lion in the distance and I never see it because I am not aware of my surroundings. Situational awareness can be applied to anything and should be taken seriously. We then discussed stress. Everyone has stress and at times it can be overwhelming. The important thing is to recognize that you are stressed and put mitigations in place to stop it from continuing. Stress can be both mental and physical. It is important to know that a hard work week out in the field like I am doing can drain me physically and not getting enough sleep can drain me mentally. Thankfully, I always get enough rest and get enough water to the point where I feel ship shape every day! Lastly we learned about the importance of functional vs. designated leaders. Designated leaders are the leaders assigned to be in charge. Functional leaders are those who step up to be leaders within their teams. Functional leaders are not designated by someone higher, but choose to step up and ask questions. It is important safety wise for someone who feels unsafe doing a job to tell their supervisor that they are uncomfortable working on a specific task. Or even something as simple as opening a dialogue periodically throughout the day to let them know how you are doing in the field whether its good or bad. The 2 day training session on Operational Leadership was eye opening and fun. I am glad I was able to attend and learn about important issues in the workforce and how to keep myself safe while working in the NPS!      

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