The Oxygen Mask Principle

July 31 2016
By: Terry L. Mathis

If you have ever flown on commercial airlines you no doubt have been told to always put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. There is a principle here: You can't help anyone else if you can't help yourself. We often forget this principle when we try to lead safety or any other organizational endeavor. Leaders must be capable and set the example.

If safety leaders or organizational executives preach safety but don't practice it, they are usually ineffective. If the person leading safety training has never practiced safety in the workplace, or if the person leading a safety meeting or developing a JSA doesn't know the job as well or better than the others involved, the activity does not produce results. Steven Covey said we must move from dependent to independent to interdependent if we are to become more effective.

Next time you feel the urge to preach or teach safety, check your own mask first.

Terry L. Mathis

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.

Subscribe to our newsletter