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Apr 2012

In this series, I share with you my thoughts on Why Safety is an Issue for Most Companies, or, putting it differently, Things we Must Address if we Want to Improve our Safety Performance. This month, I address one aspect of culture, namely our individual values and how they affect our behaviour and impact on safety culture.


Safety As A Value

by Jürgen Tietz and Tim Fox


One of the main problems with safety is that most people still suffer from the “Speedkop” (Traffic cop) syndrome – complying out of fear of being caught and fined. You need to move people from GOTO to WANTO do the safe thing. People need to have safety as a value, i.e. where safety is no longer in the head, but in the heart. If safety is in people’s heart, you can throw away the ‘rule book’, do away with the ‘supervisor’ and stop policing. People need to understand and accept that it’s not that it’s hard to do the right (safe) thing, it’s that it’s hard to know what the right thing is. Once they know what is right, when they know, they’ll find it’s hard not to do it.

Picture: Signs that show safety is a value

Safety is a value when:

  1. You take charge of your own safety and stop making excuses (no time or money). This is especially true for safety ‘at home’ and on the road – outside your work area!
  2. You think pro-actively what the consequences will be (anticipate). You stop and think of how to improve the safety of what you are doing.
  3. You catch yourself doing the right or doing the wrong thing, even when no one is looking.
  4. You are courageous enough to STOP OTHERS from doing the wrong / unsafe thing.
  5. You adopt a zero repeat mindset and do not accept that accidents just “happen”. Accidents are caused.
  6. You become a true safety champion, visible, involved and pro-active. Be a role model, make time and money available.
  7. You stop being in such a hurry, trying to do 10 things simultaneously.
  8. You feel guilty or ‘naked‘ when you take a short cut / chances, break the rules or do not take the necessary safety precautions.
  9. You stop ‘driving’ on auto-pilot and are alert and focused on the task at hand.
  10. You stop merely trying to avoid danger, but pro-actively work towards designing safety into your task or equipment.


Turn this into a powerful tool by formulating open-ended questions to survey the true safety value of your company. You have to ask the right questions:

  1. How do you take charge of your own safety ‘at home’?
  2. What do you do before you start a task?
  3. What do you do when no one is looking?
  4. What do you do when you see someone doing an unsafe thing?
  5. What is your safety mindset?
  6. How do you role-model safety?
  7. How do you make time for safety?
  8. How do you feel when you take a short cut or chances?
  9. How alert and focused are you when doing tasks?
  10. What are you doing to avoid danger?

The responses to these questions will give you a good idea of how deeply safety is rooted in your company’s ‘heart’.


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