Cooper’s Color Code


By: Rick Keen

Every day we leave our families with the intention of returning in the same condition. Using a few colors to reflect our degree of situational awareness may make a lifesaving difference. I encourage my family, friends and co-workers to continuously seek-out hazards. This simple tool will help you establish where your situational awareness level is at any given time.

An example may be arriving at work, distracted by thoughts of home, my situational awareness level would best be white (in the color scheme). Optimally, we can work safely at the next level, yellow, as we seek-out hazards. Awareness of specific hazards is in orange, where we are alert and can plan a corrective action to prevent harm. Ultimately, our situational awareness reaches the next level, red, when we see harm coming and are prepared for immediate action to preserve our own health and the health of others. 

The most beneficial effect of using this tool is continuously using our good judgement, common sense and situational awareness to get us through safe work planning and the performance of safe work.

Anticipating and recognizing a hazard, along with implementing corrective measures, is safe work planning. Using this simple color tool to improve a JSEA, as well as emergency response plans, puts us ahead of an unwanted event and prevents us from being surprised when it occurs.

I urge you all to use this simple tool to enhance your good judgement, common sense and situational awareness.

The source of this color scheme concept and more information about it is available by searching Colonel Jeff Cooper, who is credited with developing and educating his soldiers to identify their state of situational awareness relative to the risks.

Rick Keen

Rick Keen has over 40 years of experience in safety and industrial hygiene, including the oil and gas, aircraft and missile manufacturing industries.
He joined Danos in 2003 and currently works as compliance specialist in the safety department. Rick is responsible for updating safety policies and procedures. He holds a degree in occupational health and safety and is an internationally registered Certified Safety Professional and Occupational Health & Safety Technologist. He and his wife Gale reside in Lafayette and have a family of two sons, a daughter and six grandchildren.


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