By Izhak Paz, Safeguard CEO
As an entrepreneur in the domain of safety technologies specifically designed for the construction sector, I have dedicated a significant part of my career to understanding, researching, and implementing safety measures to prevent work-related accidents. Throughout this journey, I have often come across the motto 'Safety First,' a phrase that resonates throughout construction sites worldwide. This well-intentioned philosophy is often used to prioritize safety above all else. However, I believe that it's time to reassess this perspective and transition from safety as a priority to safety as a value.
But why is this shift necessary, and what does it signify?
Let's first examine the statement 'Safety First.' It implies that safety is a priority, something we should put before all else. Indeed, it is essential to prioritize safety, particularly in a sector such as construction where the risks of accidents are high. However, the term 'priority' can be tricky. Priorities change depending on the situation, budget, timeline, and various other factors. In the hustle and bustle of meeting deadlines, cost-effectiveness, and operational efficiency, safety as a priority can be sidestepped, albeit unintentionally.
Now, let's consider safety as a value. Values are enduring; they remain consistent, unaffected by external circumstances. They are embedded into every aspect of our lives, influencing our actions, decisions, and behaviors consistently. If safety becomes a core value, it becomes an integral part of every decision-making process, rather than an entity that contends for attention and resources against other priorities.
When safety is viewed as a value, it is intertwined with the very fabric of the organization’s culture. It is no longer an add-on but an inherent attribute of every activity, task, and decision. A safety culture is characterized by communications founded on mutual trust, shared perceptions of the importance of safety, and confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.
Consider it this way – when safety is a priority, it could be argued that we are primarily reacting to a situation, keeping safety in focus when an evident risk appears. But when safety is a value, we are proactively ensuring that every action taken, every decision made, is intrinsically safe and does not compromise on the wellbeing of our workers.
Promoting safety as a value is also a more sustainable approach. It's about more than just adherence to safety rules and protocols; it's about nurturing a mindset and a belief that safety is non-negotiable and paramount. This shift can bring about a transformative change in the attitudes and behaviors of everyone involved, from top management to the workers on the ground.
By no means am I suggesting that the motto 'Safety First' is obsolete or ineffective. It has been, and continues to be, instrumental in highlighting the importance of safety in the construction sector. However, I believe that in order for us to make strides in preventing work-related accidents, our perspective must evolve. The phrase 'Safety Always' might serve us better, reminding us to embrace safety not just as the top priority, but as a fundamental value that is deeply rooted in every aspect of our work.
Transitioning from safety as a priority to safety as a value requires commitment, leadership, and a willingness to change. It is a journey that demands active engagement from all levels of an organization. The road might be long, but the reward – a safer, healthier, and more productive workplace – is well worth the effort.
'Safety Always' isn't just a change of phrase; it's a change of perspective, a change in culture, and, most importantly, a change in our actions. By making this shift, we are not only reinforcing our commitment to safety but also taking a vital step toward ensuring the wellbeing of our workforce and the sustainable success of our industry.