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Who Is Responsible for Safety?

Safety is the responsibility of each and every individual.  When I say, “individual,” I refer to everyone in an organization from its top executives to its visiting college interns.

As a safety consultant I have seen (and continue to see) too much of the “blame game” — management blaming workers and workers blaming management – for inadequate workplace safety.

Working through the ranks of a large electric power company for 17 years, I experienced first hand good and bad safety management practices.  I have worked with those who behaved safely and those who did not.   Mostly what I saw were coworkers who passed the responsibility for safety on to others.  One powerful exception was the time I observed an individual taking personal responsibility for workplace safety.

Our company decided to give safety jackets to every employee as a reward for working 12 months or longer without a recordable accident.  Those who qualified were told to go to a company conference room so that we could be fitted for our “reward.”

The jacket company had taken measurements for all but one person.  When it was his turn, he declined!  Several of us questioned his decision.  We asked, “Why are you turning this down? You earned it!”  His simple, but profound, reply was ”It’s sad that they have to give us a reward for taking responsibility for our personal safety.”

He continued, “All the reward I want is to go home everyday the same way I came, without injury!  I don’t need a reward to be safe.”

WOW! What a light bulb moment. What a revelation for me.  Oh, the jacket?  Yeah, I still have mine.  In classic behavioral safety models, the jacket is an incentive to encourage workers to think and act safely.

The point is that each of us should take personal responsibility for our safety as a normal part of our professional workplace behavior. Moreover, taking personal responsibility for safety affects everyone’s safety.

Yes, management has a legal responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for all.  I have yet to hear any manager say they didn’t care if someone got hurt on the job.  In the same manner, I have never met anyone in the workforce who wants to get hurt.  Yet we continue to blame each other for failing to take responsibility for safety.  Why is that?

by Carl Potter, CSP


This a piece of chapter one of my book Who Is Responsible for Safety? and if you would like to read the entire book I suggest purchasing the e-book version for immediate download ($5.95) Click Here





To learn how safety at your workplace can be improved, attend a Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop and learn.  Find an open enrollment near you by emailing me at

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