As Safety Professionals and leaders we often use the term “safety” so often that it can be very confusing to many people. Some people view safety as the absence from harm. Other people may view safety as a sense of comfort or security. One of the problems with these definitions (or perhaps more aptly put, “descriptions”) of the term safety is that it makes it problematic for managers and leaders to attempt to make the workplace a safe environment for employees.
ISO IEC Guide 51 defines safety as “freedom from unacceptable risk.” I like this definition because it really forces us to examine our work practices and the way we perform jobs in our organizations. Rather than stating a job is “safe”, perhaps it is better to reduce risks to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable for the industry and environment and thereby reduce unacceptable risk. Risk acceptance may vary by industry and what may be acceptable in one industry may be unacceptable in another. Although this is a challenging process, defining acceptable and unacceptable risk levels may help leaders, managers, and employees understand if they are operating safely while performing their jobs.
Thanks, and have a great and safe week!