Workers who are trained on the concept of visual literacy are able to spot workplace hazards that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, according to new research.
The National Safety Council Campbell Institute released the findings of a pilot study that found teaching workers to “see” increased the number of proactive hazards and near miss reports.
The goal of the pilot project was to see how visual biases can impede the ability to see the important elements of a situation – a vital skill for workplace safety.
What is visual literacy?
Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in a visual format – and is considered a learned skill.
The researchers say that human beings are surprisingly poor at observing details when we look at something, and constantly use personal experiences and memory to fill in gaps and details, particularly in a place or a scene that is familiar.
“If a machine operator looks at the same work area and piece of equipment every day for weeks, months, or years, it can be assumed that s/he knows the work area and machinery well, but is not necessarily seeing all the details anymore.”
“Sometimes it is the fine details – and our inattention or “blindness” to them – that poses a hazard that can result in an injury or worse.”
The researchers say having more workers trained in visual literacy can also lead to more detailed and descriptive hazard and incident reports, and can help safety managers verify and audit the effectiveness of corrective actions.
Campbell Institute director, John Dony, said about 90 percent of the information people consume was visual.
“Taking in that much visual data can lead us to have in-attentional blindness – only seeing what we deem important to see but being blind to many other details, like potential hazards.”
“That’s why training workers to better see where those hazards might exist is crucial to workplace health and safety.”