Saturday, June 23, 2007

Reaction Time

This one happened at work today, and a short note to those of you in fairly risky jobs and professions.... if you're going to work in a job or a profession in which physical danger is pretty much an every day occurrence... you should have a pretty good crisis reaction time. I'm not talking about run out to your car or truck and get to the "scene" kind of reaction time, I'm talking about in your face its happening now to you or right in front of you reaction time.

Also... situational awareness, people, situational awareness.

So I'm driving the pilot car today (the Silver Streak, still) and about my third round of the morning, I pop over the hill on the north end of the site to see one of the workers' trucks in the live lane in front of me. (Live lane being the lane that traffic is running on, dead lane being the lane that traffic is shut off from. Its a little confusing right now, I admit, because we've got traffic going from one lane to the other, at each end of the site.) No big deal right? I figured he was in the truck and going to move out of my way. Then I realized that not only was he not rolling, he wasn't even in his truck. He was on the opposite side of a big honkin piece of equipment. About the time I had the little sheepies slowed down as much as I dared and leaned on the horn, he looked up, and bolted for the truck, and got it moved. All is good, except for the fact that I had to slow traffic down to nearly a stop, which is a major no no.

Right after we rearranged the site so that the traffic went on the new concrete closer to the south end, I'm headed south. And my supervisor says over the radio that M (one of the workers) is ahead of me. No biggie, right? He'll get out of the way. Wrong. M had, apparently, had a brain dead moment, and left his truck parked right smack in the middle of the live lane, pointed north, and was walking south, away from it. I had to honk the horn a few times to get his attention, before he, too, bolted like a scared jackrabbit for the vehicle and got it out of my way. (By the by, he was on the opposite side of the vehicle from me for most of it, but my supervisor saw it, and she says that M runs real purdy.)

The thing is, both of these men have, presumably, years of experience. They're both well above your average D-1 Dozer (read: shovel) operator in their company, so they should have a decent amount of experience to back it up. M is also the Traffic Control Liaison for his company, so he should have a decent idea of whats going on with all those confusing orange thingy-ma-jiggers.

Both of them stared at the situation for full seconds before reacting.

Maybe I'm expecting too much out of your average person, but I would think that if you grasp the dangers of a job, you'd make sure you kept aware of them, and have some kind of something figured out for when/if it happened. I can understand a couple of seconds of hesitation if its something utterly unexpected and unplanned for, but a traffic line coming down the live lane shouldn't be a surprise. No, really, guys, it happens about every fifteen minutes or so, depending on where you are within the site.

I'm not saying people aren't allowed to have braindead moments, I'm not saying that everyone has to be perfect every time. I've screwed up myself, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. But, and this is where the situational awareness part kicks in... both of those guys could have been well out of the way if they'd been even half watching for the pilot line. They wouldn't have risked their vehicles, their lives (yes, I mean it, their lives, even at twenty miles an hour, a semi doesn't leave much behind if it hits you) and the lives of everyone in the pilot line, including Yours Truly. German Engineered or not, I don't want to find out how well a bug holds up to being in the middle of a pickup and semi sammich, thanks.

It all worked out ok, and no one got hurt, today. It just got me to thinking about how few of the people that I work with, who don't work in traffic control specifically, think about safety. I can't count how many times I've snatched a big burly worker back by the collar of his shirt, because he was about to walk in front of a car, and on this job specifically, I had a surveyor decide to walk down the live lane in front of a semi. Really. He looked at me, asked me if he could cross the road, looked back and forth with me at the gap in the line, before I told him he had time to get *across,* and then trundled his happy way down the middle of the live lane. I thought I was about to see the invention of a grill ornament, but luckily the trucker was paying attention, and hit his brakes... thus causing the guy behind him to hit his brakes... etc... etc. It about caused a pile up, but it was narrowly avoided.

Thinking about it, my job is a never ending series of near-misses, of one sort or another. Sobering thought, ain't it?

At least M had the grace to be embarrassed about his slip up. As I went by where he'd gotten the pickup off in the ditch, I looked over to see him hunched over his steering wheel, shoulders around his ears and not daring to look directly at me, like a puppy caught piddling on the carpet, in front of company. He looked like he thought I might stop right there and beat him with his own measuring wheel.

Wonder who told them THAT story?


HollyB said...

You BEAT someone with a measuring wheel? Please, please tell us THAT story!

farmgirl said...

Well, I didn't actually beat him... I only threatened to shove it up his butt so that he wouldn't have to pull his head out of there to read it....