Why is Safety a Bad Word?

By Bryan McWhorter
Last updated: September 21, 2016
Key Takeaways

Safety can be viewed in the same vain as people starving in a third world country, if we don’t talk about it… I don’t have to feel guilty about it. We don’t need to respond to it.

Why do some companies and cultures view the topic of worker safety as something negative they don’t want to hear about? I have noticed this first hand.


You can see it in their eyes when you mention worker safety. They look at you as a killjoy. Their eyes have a look as if to say – “Don’t go there or why would you bring that up?”

Safety can be viewed in the same vain as people starving in a third world country, if we don’t talk about it… I don’t have to feel guilty about it. We don’t need to respond to it.


We can talk about more pleasant things.

The Golden Rule

How do you react when you see another person in pain? Most of us are empathetic when we see another person hurt or sick. We can place ourselves in their shoes and feel compassion for them. We offer the same help and assistances we would want if we were in the same situation.

This exemplifies the golden rule – “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” Or don’t treat others in a manner that you yourself would not like to be treated.

This is basic to most developed cultures and we view the ability to follow the golden rule as a measure of maturity and growth in a person and a civilization.


Why then is there still indifference in regards to worker safety? Indifference can take place when a person does not see value in something.

I have seen upper management view lower level employees this way.

How do you teach or encourage people to care about their fellow human beings?

Register for my free webinar: How Effective Hazard Assessments Improve Your Safety Culture

It Begins with Management

A senior employee and mentor once told me “Tell me what my boss cares about and I will tell you what I care about.” His point was he will model his behavior to meet his boss’s values and expectations.

When empathetic managers value their employees, they value safety. I have had the opportunity to meet many managers around the world that displayed deep concern for those working in their companies.

They understood the golden rule and regarded all their employees as important. This perspective is needed for a safe work environment. Safety is valued because the workers are valued. They are not seen as simply a means to an end.

The Circle of Safety

When we invest in the wellbeing of others in our group, it strengthens our organization. We all have peers and groups we belong to. As social beings we have survived generations by pledging allegiances and protecting those in our groups. We adapt a perspective of “I have your back because I know you have mine.”

We take care of our family, team, department, village or group. This is our circle of safety. You belong to our group and we protect each other. This develops loyalty and this is how trust is built.

We tend to not trust people that don’t care about our wellbeing.

When we recognize the importance and value of others, we protect them. We could not survive without the help of others.

When we don’t care about worker safety, we don’t care about or value those employees. In return workers don’t care about the company or its management. Employees only care about staying employed and getting the paycheck and benefits.

Indifference takes the place of trust with managers and with workers. The irony to this is, worker engagement is one of the most important factors leading to business success.

Crisis of Engagement

According to the Gallup organization, a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. We have a worldwide crisis of engagement. This can have serious and potentially long-lasting repercussions for the global economy.

Indifference and mistrust are the norm.

When workers are not valued they disengage. It does not need to be this way. Many surveys of successful companies have revealed that employee engagement is one of the most important measurements a company can poses that leads to growth and success.

Companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share and realize:

  • 41% fewer quality defects
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 65% less turnover (low-turnover organizations)
  • 25% less turnover (high-turnover organizations)
  • 37% less absenteeism

Those are some pretty impressive numbers from the Gallup organization website.

Worker Health and Safety is Up to Management

When employers care about workers and their safety, workers respond by becoming enthusiastic about what they do. They tackle work related issues with creativity. They invest more energy in protecting the business. We protect those that protect us.

At home, we care about our family’s safety because we care about our family, if management doesn’t care about employee safety; it’s most likely due to indifference. They don’t care about the employees, only what the employees provide to the company.

Management teams that value their employees will work to create safety cultures. They will also reap all the rewards that come from loyal, engaged employees. These are the companies that will thrive.

A simple Google search of “best global companies to work for,” will display many successful companies that place high value on their employees.

Worker safety, wellbeing and happiness are forefront to management. These companies understand the importance of worker engagement. They care about employees and it shows in the work environments they provide.

It’s not a matter of safety; it’s a matter of indifference versus caring. Management cares or it doesn’t. What about your management team? How does management view your workforce? Are you a family? Do you protect each other?

Companies that care about employee’s wellbeing will enjoy the many benefits a loyal workforce can provide. This will include fewer accidents and a much more enjoyable work atmosphere.

Register for my free webinar: How Effective Hazard Assessments Improve Your Safety Culture

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Written by Bryan McWhorter | Lead Safety Advisor, Author, Writer, Speaker

Bryan McWhorter

Bryan McWhorter is a safety professional with eight years of experience in driving and teaching safety. Bryan gained his knowledge and experience as the safety officer and Senior Trainer for Philips Lighting. Philips is a strong health and well-being company that promotes a safety first culture.

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