Safety is Danger

by Fargy

Safety has a boring reputation, when it's really a wild child of the imagination.

Risk and Safety are twins. We need both in our lives to be who we are, and to continually grow.

Risk is associated with fun though.

Safety gets associated with boring meetings and trivial pettiness over wearing safety gear to meet some tinpot safety dictator's fanatical and irrelevant requirements because they are scared of being sued.

But I don't think that way. Since Risk and Safety are the same coin, they are both interesting. Hopefully I can let you see how I think, it's safe, I don't bite.

A human need.

First let's get a basic understanding of why we have a need for safety.

It's programmed into us.  We can see that from long standing research in Psychology, most easily seen in Maslow's HierarchyMaslow's Hierarchy of Needs. of Needs.

There it is.

Safety, just above our Physiological needs.

All of this is decades old research the main point of which is to say that we definitely do prioritise Safety highly in our normal every day life.

It is why we have Workplace Safety laws.  They come about because of human need, not political ideology.

If you would like to read more,'s_hierarchy_of_needs

The main point is we will always have to deal with Safety in any of our activities.  So it's best to plan that way, to start out from the very beginning with that in mind.

Safe Risk.

We have a need for Safety but if you look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs again, we also need to grow.  To feel good about ourselves and self actualize.

Those steps involve taking risks.

We do enjoy taking risks, and we enjoy watching people take risks.  To stare in amazement as people jumping motorcycles vast distances, or dodge all tackles in football.

We have to face our own fears to grow.  Which means taking risks.

Each person's assessment of risk will vary.  You can see that in dangerous jobs where people become accustomed to tasks that would scare many others.

To help with that we train in risk taking.

As a more extreme example, try bungee jumping.  Why do we do it?  There is a practical benefit, we face down a fear.

Bungee jumping is also a very clear example of how Risk and Safety tie together.  Bungee jumping wouldn't be much fun without the cord.

The future untold.

What are we doing when we sit down for a Safety Meeting?

Checking all the paperwork is done?  Meeting all legal requirements for consultation?

That's true but it's also the dull side.

What you are really doing is steering a ship into an unknown future.

When you do Risk Management you are taking a journey of the imagination into possible futures.

And you want some futures untold.  

The future that involves blood on the floor, ambulance sirens and lawsuits.  You want to steer around that.

You want as many people as possible to be in that role of gypsy fortuneteller.  Who when they see a frayed seatbelt do something about it because they predict the inevitable future.

But there is another benefit.  Every organisation is in a constant state of change.  You want people who are in there guiding that change, and Safety Training can help do that, where that forward thinking becomes much broader than just a Safety context.


How do we do Safety?

Talk.  There is no magic book you can put on a bookshelf, Safety is a continual talking process.

That continuing process ensures that your organisation stays changing as the world changes.

You will find yourself ahead of change.

Done right Safety won't be seen as an externally imposed add-on.  Members of the organisation will see it as normal risk management in life, just like looking for traffic before crossing the road.

As an example of talking changing the world, let's look at the US Secretary of State John Kerry, during a press interview he made an offhand remark about a rhetorical solution to the Syria crisis with chemical weapon use.

Instead of just being rhetorical it may actually work, Russia and Syria are suggesting that they could do this.

It would not have happened without this press interview, and possibly a tired remark from the Secretary of State.

But it happened because of talking.  Talking changed the world.

At first glance how is Safety involved with this Syrian issue?

It's about predicting the future and diminishing harm.  If you are doing that, you're doing Safety.

If you are beginning your journey into Safety issues these tangential types of issues will crop up.  And left ignored this is where accidents will happen.

Safety is an everyday part of what every person wants, it should be part of every organisation's needs, every day.





Put your helmet back on!

Let's take a look at a common scenario...

Staff are not wearing safety gear required at a work site.

How do you talk to them?

Tell them to put their gear back on and then leave?

And then tell them again when you return?

This scenario seems fairly common.

It is a cyclical game, and it's the job of management to change that.  Typically the temptation is to get serious and lay down the law, and possibly sack someone.

There is a stage before that.

Talking.  Not just as defined by the management regulations, we need to remember that Safety is a human need.  So let's take a more human approach.

Sit down and ask why.

Is there a macho culture?

Is there a feeling that Safety is a tacked on after-thought?

Have the staff seen what happens when helmets aren't worn?

Be honest.  Tell them how you feel playing this helmet game and ask why it happens and how to get to a better place.  This open nature is difficult, many see an authoritarian approach as effective.

But if you talk it may just be that an employee has an idea that will remove the need for helmets altogether.  If you tell them what to do, you waste opportunities.



The Safety Dance.


The waltz of Safety and Risk will never stop.

Just as the only certainty of Life is Death, so do we struggle to control our lives via that see-saw of Safety and Risk.

The best approach is to accept that we all have a need for Risk and Safety and that because we are all different, that talking is the best way to get groups to achieve goals safely.

Risk is exciting.

Safety is exciting.

Combined they help avoid unplanned excitement. 


Take care out there.


Jakob Gamertsfelder.

Other safety articles.

Safety evolves not only in our personal lives and experiences but in our societal structures. Our rules of the game as it were. Each rule is paid for in blood.
Why is a safety match called a safety match? Why should we not play with matches? Fire is the embodiment of the dual nature of Safety/Risk.
Updated: 09/27/2013, Fargy
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Fargy on 09/24/2013

I see it the same way. We think that safety is always being the same but that can be dangerous. Risk-taking can be a way to keep us safe.

We take a risk to learn how to ride a bike. Perhaps skinning our knees if we did a risk assessment and thought knee pads too expensive and/or awkward. By learning this, by taking this risk we grow a little. And we get the joy of the first bike ride without falling over.

I see safety and risk as yin yang.

JoHarrington on 09/24/2013

Taking risks is all about making progress, thinking outside the box in order to do something that was never done before. A possible reward lies at the other end. Then you get the adrenaline rush to make the thrill of the risk even more enticing. That's my take anyway!

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