"Be Safe" Is A Terrible Safety Message

Be safe. There are a host of reasons why you will want to stop saying it - including that it’s a terrible safety message and it’s nearly impossible to do.


Does your workplace have the safety wallpaper? Walls covered in so many mixed-message safety slogans and posters that they’ve just become a blur to the employees? So many tried and failed safety messages and downloaded generic internet photos, posters and slogans that no one even looks at it anymore?

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Generic safety messages, although they give the appearance of actually doing something to improve safety, doesn’t really work. Worse yet, most generic safety messages are like an off-the-rack suit. It might be a suit, but it's ill-fitting. And an ill-fitting suit looks like a cheap attempt to dress-up. It also shouts that you're not comfortable wearing it. But if you were to take that same suit, tailor the sleeves, adjust the buttons and get the right length, it becomes something you’re proud to wear.

The same too with a safety message. It has to fit, or your people won’t want to wear it.

When you tell your people to be safe, you may as well tell them to be a Ph. D or an astronaut for all the good it will do. Be Safe is an incomplete set of instructions. You cannot just be something anyway. You have to DO something before you can BE something.

Your safety message has to fit, or your people won’t own it or wear it.

So, do something. Get started on improving your ability to lead your team. Take the Free Preview of the Safety Communications & Coaching for Supervisors course. 40-minutes of video instruction, summary sheet download PDFs and a companion MP3 audio version to take with you on the go. It's free to get started.

Nike got it right. You?

New call-to-action Have a look at Nike’s slogan. It isn't Just Be It. It's Just DO It. Safety, like success, is the result of actions taken. You can choose safe actions. You can do safe things and make good decisions. Safety is the result - not the action.

Besides, Be Safe suggests that you can turn it on or off on command. But you don’t want your team to turn it on or off. You want your people to consistently act safely, to watch the backs of their fellow workers, to take safety home and impart the ideals of safety to their families. Those are all actions they can take. You want your people to buy-in to safety always through their decisions and actions.

Here's what to do instead.

Be Safe may be familiar. Some of your fellow team members might still be saying it regularly. But, be safe is impossible to do and not very well thought out. So, instead here's a suggestion to shift away from old, tired cliches. Gather your team at a safety meeting. Plan to spend some time on this, it's important. Task your people in a brainstorming session. Ask them to work in small groups together to create their own safety mission. One sentence that sums up what they are supposed to DO, not be.

Ask your team to create their own safety mission. One sentence that sums up what they are supposed to DO.

A safety mission, as outlined in my blog post Can Protests Improve Safety and Safety Needs A Script To Follow can get your whole team on the same page quickly. You need a front-line mission, something more relatable than the corporate mission statement. Read the blog posts above (and subscribe to my blog posts if you haven't done so already). Then convene your meeting. Get them talking about a mission that fits for them. Get them strategizing. Asking your team to participate will increase the engagement levels in safety almost immediately. Ask them to create their collective mission for each other then give them permission to take ownership of what they create.

SCCS Banner WebsiteTake the FREE preview lesson of Kevin's course Safety Communications & Coaching for Supervisors. 40-minutes of video instruction, summary download PDFs and a companion audio MP3 version to take with you on the go. SCCS is an online course to help energize safety, build teamwork, and get employee buy-in.

Kevin Burns, consultant/author, works with smart, caring companies to energize safety culture, build teamwork, and get employee buy-in. KevBurns Learning is committed to to helping companies improve safety by improving people, through creative learning materials, virtual strategy sessions, safety meeting presentations, and team coaching programs.

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Topics: safety buy-in