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Making safety sexy

Ok, the title above was intended to do two things: 1. Make you take a look at the article, which is what you’re doing if you’re reading this sentence; 2. Identify with one of safety’s biggest challenges, which is how to make safety interesting, and attractive, so that it is more readily embraced.

The subject of safety, for most of us, is dry. We see it as stuff that we “have to do.”  In the name of safety, we are told to behave a certain way, follow regulations, follow procedures and use personal protective equipment that is hot and cumbersome. So how can we make the concept of safety “sexier” so it will stay relevant in the mind of the worker every day?  This is accomplished by getting the workers to identify personally with it and come to the conclusion on their own by saying: “I need safety.”

Messaging that comes from the heart is Sexy

Messages based on personal experiences have a great deal of impact on team behavior.  For instance, a story of a family member being injured after falling from a deer stand can have a huge impact when discussing fall protection strategies at the beginning of a work shift.

Peer-to-peer discussion offers the greatest opportunity for a message to stick.  The bonds of working relationships are expressed through trust in one another.  For that reason, when a worker speaks to a co-worker from a position of respect, their message is internalized to a higher degree.  A peer noting another employee’s risky behavior usually results in a greater success than a reprimand offered by a supervisor.

Fun is Sexy

Laughing and having fun releases endorphins, or brain chemicals, that make us happy.  Happy experiences stay with us longer.  The droning of an instructor during a training session is a perfect place to insert some fun.  Game-based activities offer a unique dynamic to training and can be use in both individual and group settings to create a fun, competitive learning environment.

PPE is Sexy

zimmer designz pic

Custom hard hats for safety by Zimmer Designz.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has come a long way in the last fifteen years.  PPE manufacturers have realized that if a worker thinks they look

good, for instance, while wearing stylish safety glasses, they will likely wear them more often.  This is true for nearly all other pieces of PPE, as evidenced by hard hat designs the display NFL logos, sleek and swept curves on safety glasses and fun color schemes and patterns, such as “camo,” that speak to leisure activities.  Employers are even seeing their employees use good-looking safety gear off-the-job — helping to establish good safety habits 24/7.

In conclusion, contrary to what most people think, safety can be sexy.  After all, what’s not sexy about preventing an injury or illness or even saving a life?  Although safety professionals typically don’t save lives in dramatic fashion, like firemen do, we do have a significant effect on the quality of life.  Heck, firemen save lives and celebrate it by creating their own calendars where they bare some skin.  I think I’ll make such a calendar for safety professionals. We’re worthy of one, too!

About the author:

Dan Hannan of MerjentDan Hannan is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and has been practicing safety for twenty-four years.  He is presently the Safety Director for Merjent, an environmental and social consulting firm serving the world’s leading energy and natural resource companies. Merjent  consultants have decades of specialized experience on pipeline projects, including planning and feasibility, environmental permitting, construction compliance, operational compliance, third-party analyses, stakeholder engagement, and technology solutions.  Dan can be reached at dhannan@merjent.com.


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