© 2023 by the Colorado Construction Safety Laboratory, LLC

Hazard Recognition
Hazard Recognition

Research has consistently shown that humans identify and discuss less than half of the hazards that they will face during a work period. The limitation is not complacency or lack of effort. Rather, there are systematic blind spots that can be addressed via mental shortcuts and simple prompts during pre-job meetings and design reviews.

How it works

A series of laboratory experiments have revealed that - regardless of culture, experience, industry, or trade - human beings have the same tendency to focus on certain types of hazards while being blind to others until prompted. Energy-based hazard recognition involves using the Energy Wheel to guide pre-job safety meetings and scanning of dangerous work environments. The wheel is intended to be used to prompt the brain to consider some hazards that would otherwise go unnoticed. Based upon two years of full-time pilot testing by researchers at the University of Colorado and Virginia Tech, the energy method consistently improved hazard recognition by 20-30%.

Energy Wheel
What we offer

Keynote Presentations

Dr. Matthew Hallowell offers award-winning presentations on this topic and has delivered to audiences ranging from 100 to over 2,000. His presentation includes a number of engaging audience activities and generates a vibrant discussion.

Sample Organizations and Venues

National Academy of Construction

Edison Electric Institute

INGAA Foundation

CEPA Foundation

Enbridge Pipelines Annual Safety Summit

Aecon Safety Summit

Quanta Services Risk and Safety Conference




1-2 hour leadership introduction.

(in-person is most effective, virtual is possible)



3-4 hour field management training.

(in-person is necessary, virtual is not recommended)

Recommended Approach

We offer workshops on energy-based hazard recognition for all levels. Typically, we recommend that an organization host a leadership introductory session to explore whether the energy method is something that the organization would like to pursue. Subsequently, field level management can be trained across the organization and implementation plans can be established.


 Energy Wheel                              Energy Icons  

Research Evidence 

Laboratory Experiments

We have performed a series of laboratory experiments using a combination of eye-tracking technology (see video), functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), and common construction images to determine how the brain functions when identifying specific types of hazards. The research has provided insight regarding why some hazards capture our attention and others do not.

Field Experiments

Our position is that "safety philosophy" is not sufficient in directing limited safety resources. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that the energy method improves hazard recognition and communication. We conducted over 4,800 worker hours of observation on active construction sites and applied multiple baseline experimentation to test our hypothesis. The results showed a 20-30% improvement across all projects. In short, you don't need to pilot test, we have done it already and the results have withstood the rigors of peer-review.

Video showing common scan path for a construction image

Publications (available on request)

Hallowell, M.R., Albert, A., Skaggs, M., and Kleiner, B. (2017). “Empirical measurement and improvement of hazard recognition skill” Safety Science, 93, 1-8.

Albert, A., Hallowell, M.R., Lingard, H., and Kleiner, B. (2015). “Multiple baseline testing: An experimental method for drawing causal inferences in construction engineering and management research.” Journal of Construction Engineering and Management,  04015012-1 to 04015012-13.

Albert, A., Hallowell, M.R., and Kleiner, B. (2014). “Experimental field testing of a real-time construction hazard identification and transmission technique.” Construction Management and Economics,  32(10): 1000-1016.

Albert, A., Hallowell, M.R., Kleiner, B., Golparvar-Fard, M., and Chen, A. (2014). “Enhancing construction hazard recognition with high fidelity augmented virtuality.” Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, ASCE, 04014024-1 to 04014024-11.

Albert, A., Hallowell, M.R., and Kleiner, B. (2014). “Emerging strategies for construction safety and health hazard recognition.” Journal of Safety, Health, and Environmental Research, ASSE, 10(2): 152-161.

Albert, A., Hallowell, M.R., and Kleiner, B.M. (2013). “Enhancing construction hazard recognition and communication with energy-based cognitive mnemonics and a safety meeting maturity model: A multiple baseline study.” Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 04013042-1 to 04013042-12.