Safety Involvement: Pleasure or Pain?

BIC - August 2016
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Printable Version

We give more of ourselves for things we like, and we work just as hard to keep away from the things we do not. What do people experience with your safety efforts: pleasure or pain?

Aristotle declared, "We may lay it down that Pleasure is a movement, a movement by which the soul as a whole is consciously brought into its normal state of being; and that Pain is the opposite." Sigmund Freud later taught us of the Pleasure Principle, which makes us hardwired to seek out things that bring us pleasure and avoid those that bring us pain in order to satisfy our needs.

At the time of this writing, Houston, where I live has experienced unprecedented amounts of rain in a 24-hour period. Major flooding has occurred across the entire area. As a result, my daughters' schools were closed for an entire week. I chose to stay home with them to spend some additional quality time. They had a different idea: spending time with a neighborhood friend. They saw more pleasure in this, which I'm sure I would have, too, at their ages.

At their friend's home, I caught up with the girl's father, Jeff, who had just returned from a short family vacation to Disney World. Since I'm planning an upcoming trip there myself, we discussed the new additions to the parks and how our children's interests in certain rides change as they mature and their attention spans decrease.

When kids are young, they are happy, even eager, to stand in line for hours to meet their favorite characters. As they get older, they start questioning the tradeoff: How long will I have to wait, and how long is the ride? I can't remember if Jeff or I made this comment, "How much pain do we have to experience for the pleasure of the ride?"

In business, as in our personal lives, we are continuously making these tradeoff decisions. What do we want to avoid? What do we want to seek out? What is the better use of resources than another? If I have to experience a little pain, what's in it for me? When it comes to safety efforts within a company, do people view involvement, meetings, teams, training or communication as painful? Or do they experience some form of pleasure from these things?

A few years ago, the Global Health and Safety Team of a major corporate client had my team and me help them recraft their mission statement which resulted in this: "To continuously improve the quality of life of the employees, on and off the job." This became a qualifier for all future decisions on safety, even new rules and training requirements. The first question was, "How will this improve the quality of life of an employee on and off the job?" If it didn't but was still required, the next question was, "How do we reduce the pain?"

I've written extensively about motivation and demotivation, and that the first step is to identify and neutralize the demotivators. What turns people off of safety? How can we help add motivators to facilitate someone's desires to be involved and be the best safety performer?

Are your efforts providing a sense of security in your employees' efforts - i.e., do they have confidence the company is doing all it can to provide a safe working environment? Beyond that, are you providing a sense of belonging, connection, accomplishment and, finally, enabling people to reach their full potential?

Safety is not only about cost-reduction, risk-reduction and avoidance. Safety adds value to the business and, more importantly, the people within it. Excellence-focused organizations understand this and work to ensure safety creates a pleasurable, involved experience and improves the quality of everyone's life on and off the job. What do people experience with your safety efforts, pleasure or pain?

Shawn M. Galloway is the CEO of ProAct Safety and co-author of several bestselling books. As an award-winning consultant, adviser, leadership coach and keynote speaker, he has helped hundreds of organizations within every major industry to improve safety strategy, culture, leadership and engagement. He is also the host of the highly acclaimed weekly podcast series Safety Culture Excellence®.
For more information, call (936) 273-8700 or email

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