SAFETY – What is Safety? The World’s Toughest Question? What does Safety mean to you?

What is Safety?

Sensitivity to Operations

Asking Open Questions

Finding the best in others

Entertaining doubt

Thinking critically

Yeast in the dough

Dr Robert Long

Many of us, myself included, use the word SAFE (and unsafe) in our writings and discussions. If you work in the Safety Management field, it is likely even in your job title.

What I find amusing and sometimes disturbing is that when challenged about their definition of the word “SAFE” people in the Safety Profession often stumble and stutter when it comes to providing THEIR definition.

They say it is critical for most people in deciding where they go, what they buy and what they do, consciously or unconsciously. Until a couple of years ago I never really thought much about it, I thought I was just doing it. Is it just “it is what it is”? If you can this question quickly and succinctly then I guess you really haven’t thought much about it either! It is bound to be a different thing for different people – It’s a bit like asking “what is Love”?

Safety shouldn’t be about safety; it should be about living and learning. When safety is made into some bureaucratic, legal or club exercise, it has lost the plot. This is why I prefer to talk much more about risk than I do about safety. The moment you tell someone you are into safety they think you are either the fun police or some legal nerd who loves checklists. If safety is some engineering exercise of shifting objects to keep some system clean, then I think we have lost the plot. If safety is about trying to memorize sections of the Act so that we can dominate and rule others, then we have lost the plot. If safety is a power trip so that we can bully others to ‘keep them safe for their own good’, then we have lost the plot. Safety should be about none of these things. When we put learning first, people first, relationships first, respect first and living first, then we might get to the heart of safety.

So kindly please take the time to listen to your staff, employees, volunteers and contractors, they all have great ideas on how to improve safety in the workplace and how to reduce injuries. If you fail to listen you are only hurting yourself in the long run. Worker Compensation is not cheap and injuries cost lots of money in the short term and the long term. If an employee asks you to spend some money on a safety idea or safety suggestion review it, look at it, talk about it, then get off your butt and do something about it! You may save a life, you may reduce an injury and in the long run employees will have more respect for the job and the working environment.

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