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Driving Safety with Kindness

By Bryan McWhorter
Published: September 13, 2022
Key Takeaways

Kindness is one of the foundations of workplace safety. You can't build a strong safety culture without it.

Caption: Workers collaborating Source: seb ra / iStock

“Many communicate, but few connect” - John Maxwell

Kindness is not only a prerequisite for safety - it's at the core of it.

Psychological safety must be established before physical safety and here's why: we are risk takers who are driven by performance. We want to succeed at whatever it is we're being paid to do. Because of that, we're willing to take physical risks to protect ourselves emotionally and professionally.


That's why kindness matters. If we know that our employers care about us as people and employees, we will believe they don’t want us to get hurt. We'll know that our manager would rather we stop unsafe work than put anyone at risk of injury.

In those cases, we're still being risk takers. But this time, the risk is to the production schedule, not bodily safety.

That's how safety gets established as the number one priority in the culture of the workplace.

Kindness Is a Foundation for Community

Can you think of a time when you were with a group of people who seemed indifferent to you? Now, remember a time when you were surrounded by people who cared about you.

These two experiences are opposites. One provides safety and security while the other creates insecurity. Kindness connects us with others while indifference disconnects us. The former makes us feel valued, and accepted and the latter makes us feel inconsequential and devalued.

As social beings, we need connection to feel safe. This is where safety begins. When someone is indifferent toward us, it sends the message that they don't care about us. So when that same person tells us they take our safety seriously, why should you believe them?

If our goal as safety professionals is to keep workers safe, we must start by showing we care about them as individuals. We need to connect with the people we want to protect - and kindness is what connects us. It's that simple.

(Find out Why Creating a Safety Culture Is Better than Relying on Compliance)

Kindness Boosts Your Own Wellbeing

I hate to place a selfish spin on being kind to others, but it really is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. When we perform a kind act for anyone, our body releases a cocktail of hormones:

  • Serotonin, which relaxes you and makes you feel happy
  • Oxytocin, which reduces blood pressure, has an immediate calming effect, promotes social bonding, increases trust and generosity, and makes you feel more loving and loved
  • Endorphins, which reduces pain - our natural equivalent to morphine
  • Generous people have twice the amount of DHEA, which slows down aging

It's no surprise, then, that studies have found that people who are kind, generous, and have a positive attitude live longer.

We are wired to be kind to one another. It is no surprise that every religion has a version of the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Being kind to others is one of the best ways to show kindness to ourselves.

(Learn more about the Three Levels of Safety)

Safety Must Come First

Paul O'Neill was chairman and CEO of the Pittsburgh industrial giant Alcoa from 1987 to 1999 and retired as chairman at the end of 2000. During those 13 years, Alcoa's revenue increased five-fold - from a market value of 3 billion to 27 billion. He accomplished this by focusing on safety before anything else. He made it clear that safety was his number one priority. This created a people-first focus.

Paul O’Neill had three questions he would ask employees as a litmus test to reveal a healthy work culture. These are his three questions all employees should say "yes" to:

  1. Can I say every day I am treated with dignity and respect by everyone I encounter without respect to my pay grade, or my title, or my race, or ethnicity or religious beliefs, or gender?
  2. Am I given the things I need – education, training, tools, encouragement – so I can make a contribution to this organization that gives meaning to my life?
  3. Am I recognized for what I do by someone I care about?

We focus on safety by focusing on the lives of those impacted by our business: our employees, customers, and suppliers. Kindness and respect show them that we care.

It is incongruent to treat people with indifference and state that safety comes first. It's simply not true and it's not believable.

(Learn about 20 Catchy Safety Slogans and Why They Matter)

Start Now

Add “perform one act of kindness” to your daily to-do list.

Every time you are kind to someone, you improve your own health and wellbeing, slow the aging process, and increase your ability to lead others by having a positive influence. You will also be improving safety and performance.

Kindness is a virtue that we can practice daily. It should become a habit. When it does, it will transform who you are and how others see you.

Let’s make our world a little kinder and safer. I choose kindness. What about you?


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

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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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