What is “Safety?”-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is “Safety?”

Safety means different things to different people. According to Wikipedia, safety means the state of being "safe" (from the French word sauf), the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event.

With such a broad definition, it is no wonder it is nearly impossible to get people to commit to a specific safety plan or safety procedure. The government attempts to define what exactly makes a work area safe, but if everyone doesn't believe the definition or explanation then the system breaks down. That is, if  workers feel safe in their work area then they are not going to make the effort to enforce what they feel are unnecessary rules or regulations.

Companies that have excellent safety records develop a safety culture where everyone believes that certain safety acts or procedures need to be followed in order to have a safe work area. There are even presentations by motivational speakers that focus on changing the audience's attitude towards safety. Making people aware of their surroundings and how safe they are is an important factor in getting the buy-in that is needed to have a truly safe work environment.

So remember to think about safety and what it means to you. Then try to get your coworkers to do the same; you might be surprised at what can be accomplished if everyone just becomes a little more aware of the safety of their work environment. If you have any ideas on how to make Carnegie Mellon University a safer place to work, please contact the Environmental Health and Safety department at 268-8182


By: Michael Fouch, mfouch@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-3221