“Safety First”? Think Again – Moving Beyond the Motto

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By shifting to safety as a value instead of a motto,

safety will be at the foundation of all you do.”

Back in 2007, I penned an article for Concrete Construction magazine. At that point in my career, I was struggling to make safety the priority in balance with production at my employer. 17 years later, I no longer believe in “safety first”.

Priorities change every minute of every day. Working safely is a priority…until the schedule pressures get to mangers and leadership. Then corners are cut and exceptions are taken until a safety event happens. Production must stop and then we’re back to “safety first”. Until the schedule is off. And the cycle continues. 

The reality is the primary function of every company is generating a profit. If you don’t, you’re out of business. Production schedules change, priorities shift, and all of those affect the bottom line which in turn affects you, your employees and by extension, their families. With that pressure, it’s no wonder that safety takes a back seat when you need make payroll.  

For these reasons, I now view safety as a value. Some values are learned at a young age – courage, honesty, faith. Some values are acquired. When you become a parent, your values shift in the service of taking care of your child. It’s likely that safety will be an acquired value for you and your team, but learning to think in this way is a benefit to all. That way, priorities can change, projects can be adjusted, but your values remain the same, embedded in all you do. 

The success of any safety program begins with management support. Good intentions fail without a strong commitment from leadership. Write it down. Commit to it in your safety plan. Speaking of, when was the last time you reviewed your plan? With the values based thought shift, maybe it’s time for some updates. Encourage employee buy-in by asking them for suggestions and involving them in the update. They are the ones onsite facing safety challenges each day, it’s almost certain they will have some excellent feedback. 

At Exceed Safety, we stress safety as a value in all we do. Our entire team is committed to this and brings that commitment to our clients. Finding a happy medium between profitability, production requirements, and safety will always be a challenge. By shifting to safety as a value instead of a motto, safety will be at the foundation of all you do, cemented in the way you do business and ensuring a bright future for the success of your company and your team. 

Authored by: Tim Neubauer, May 2024

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