August 03 2020
By: Terry L. Mathis
These words are used in safety to represent desired behaviors and conditions, but do not reflect reality. Safe is an ideal state in which no risks are present. That state does not exist. Unsafe is most often used to express higher probability risks or more potentially severe injuries. That, too, is an inexact science. Even risks that usually result in only minor injuries can occasionally produce a fatality. High-level risks can be taken regularly with no injury in some instances.
The reality is that there is no safe, but there IS a safer. The hierarchy of controls starts with eliminating risks. That is seldom possible, so we take other steps which do not eliminate but simply attempt to control the risk. These steps reduce the probability of the risk producing an injury and are, thus, safer. Understanding the probability of risks is an important step to take mindsets from "safety is not getting hurt" to "safety is minimizing risks." This change in mindset is a foundational step in the journey to safety excellence.
Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.