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As a Safety Leader, are You Seen as a Hypocrite?

If you are around people, you are being watched.  Everyone watches everyone else to see if they are better or worse than the other person.  Judgments are being made in silence, with words, and in actions.  Some just walk away without a word and think it, others are bold and state it, and some just act it out.  If you say “Safety is a Top Priority,” but your actions don’t match it, you are labeled a hypocrite.


What is a hypocrite?  According to Webster: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings. Several years ago while working with a client, the safety manager was driving me from one location to another so I could speak to employee groups.  As we drove down the highway he was at least 15 MPH past the posted speed limit.  I asked him why he was driving so fast and his excuse was that we would be late.  I said, “Well I would appreciate it if you would slow down and drive the speed limit.  He did comply and said, “I guess it would be bad if the safety manager and motivational safety speaker got a ticket for speeding on the way to the meeting.”  My response was, “Yep, if we are going to break the speed limit just to get to the meeting on time, my audience would see us as hypocrites.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect, but I do try to behave safe in my activities.


Because all of my family and friends know what I do, I have expectations of safe behavior on me.  Shouldn’t I act on my belief and values?  As I travel the country advising leaders and speaking to employees I am asked, “Do you really believe that all injuries are preventable?”  I always tell them, “If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t say it.  Moreover, I wouldn’t try to prevent them myself.”  When I am flying my plane people expect me to be safe.  Just last week I left my Cessna 182 in Oklahoma City for three days because of weather.  I could have probably made it home literally dodging lightning, but the risk was to high.  A friend who has been flying longer than me told me years ago, “Remember that the pilot killed in bad weather is buried three days later in clear weather.”  My family all expressed their appreciation for my judgment and that’s more important to me than getting home on time.

Sometimes I meet a worker who will tell me that they have to sometimes cut a corner on safety because they are expected to get a job done quicker.  I ask them, “Is it okay with your family when you take the risk?”  Their answer is usually, “I guess not.”  In my Hazard Recognition and Control Workshopparticipants tend to say, “The company leadership says safety is important, but when it comes to getting the job completed safety takes a back seat.”  The companies I work with are lead by people who are good at running businesses.  Many of them didn’t work their way up through the ranks of the company and sometimes they seem to put production ahead of safety with their words.  When it comes down to it though, I have meet few company leaders who think it’s okay for an employee to risk injury.  After a short discussion they changed their thinking.  When it comes down to it, nobody wants to see anyone get hurt.  But whether you are the CEO or one of the rank and file employees, you can become a hypocrite.


Everyone is a safety leader.  “Do as I say, not as I do” is what I find some safety leaders doing.  It has been said that the best leaders are those who lead by example.  As a safety leader, do you demonstrate how to be safe?  No matter what level of the organization you work at people are watching you to see if you do what you say should be done.  I don’t think anyone likes to think of themselves as a hypocrite.  If you are going to be around people there is only one way I know to prevent becoming a hypocrite and that is to do what you say to do and hit the target of; Nobody Gets Hurt.


By Carl Potter




Carl Potter works with organizations that want to put safety first in the minds of their employees, so that everyone can go home every day without injuries. Carl knows safety! After working in the electric utility industry for over 17 years, he started Potter and Associates International in 1993.

Through his presentations, consulting, writings and videos, he now spends his time bringing his frontline, hands-on experience of personal responsibility and safety to companies all over the country.

Carl is a certified safety professional, certified management consultant, and certified speaking professional. He is the author of several books that are available at In addition, thousands of safety professionals around the world depend on Carl’s weekly safety article blogs at to increase safety awareness in their workplaces.

As a pilot who flies his own plane, he brings different perspectives to workplace safety. He is involved in a number of humanitarian efforts that involve safety and aviation including Angel Flight of Oklahoma, Mission Aviation Fellowship, and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary – a division of the US Homeland Security. His unique background and frontline experience have made Carl Potter the go-to person when it comes to creating a safe work environment.

For more information about Carl’s work visit:

2 Responses to As a Safety Leader, are You Seen as a Hypocrite?

  • Alan Murfee says:

    Well, getting a job done quickly does not mean that you will not follow safety laws. Safety laws are essential for every organization and following them strictly will keep you safe and secure from accidents on sites.

  • Carl,

    I see several times a year at out side meetings where certain folks don’t want to follow rules as simple as wearing a hard hat yet mix with the others and we have to ask them to get a hat or leave area.
    I enjoY reading your letters.


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