Hang Up or Hang Around?

November 13 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway

Two years ago, while taking a tour of a massive plant, I noticed all the safety banners hanging from rafters throughout. The oldest I could find, covered in dust, read, "Safety is Core in '04". The sign was seventeen years old. When people feel safety messaging is nothing but propaganda, they will ignore it at best or view it as an insincere form of lip service or manipulation.

In my 2023 book, COACH: A Safety Leadership Fable, the story follows Lucy, a recently promoted supervisor, who seeks out a mentor. She is led to Solophant the elephant and begins to learn and successfully apply the four areas to master to become a Coach. In Chapter Two, we see the effects of being acquired by a larger group and the laughable attempt to motivate employees through a safety slogan contest.

"There was also a poster announcing the PBPB Safety Slogan Contest, with a bunch of slogans we were supposed to vote on. There was a stack of paper, plus a bunch of pens, and you were supposed to write your favorite slogan on the paper, fold it and stuff it into a little box. The candidate slogans were:

    A cartoon drawing of three monkeys reading a sign on a tree.
  • Safety Is Priority Number 1
  • The Key to Safety Is in Your Hands
  • Never Give Safety a Day Off
  • Safety First!
  • A Safe Monkey Is a Happy Monkey
  • Our Tribe: The Reason I Work Safely
  • The Root Cause of All Falls Is Carelessness

By lunch, some monks had crossed out and rewritten the slogans so they read:

  • Safety Is Priority Number 1 + (6x922) x [15z(x/7)3]
  • The Key to Safety Is in Locker Lois's Hands
  • Never Give Safety a Day Off, but Give Me Three
  • Safety First, Production Firster, Profits Firstest!
  • A Soused Monkey Is a Happy Monkey
  • My Salary: The Reason I Work
  • The Root Cause of All Falls Is Gravity

And the monks had great fun inventing entirely new slogans of their own, the rudest of which—too rude to repeat—they wrote on the paper and stuffed into the little box."

Slogans and banners can be useful tools or antecedents when they either reinforce sincere exchanges that demonstrate their bosses and other managers care about the employees or reinforce existing employee ownership of the focus or objective.

If you only have time and energy to hang something that sends a safety message, hang around your employees, get to know them, and allow them time to get to know you.

Shawn M. Galloway

Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.

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