Make Safety Personal, Another Meaningless Safety Slogan

imageSkills in critical linguistics are essential in managing risk. The language we use and the extended para-linguistics we use, have an enormous influence on decision making. Anyone in marketing, advertising and influencing knows that the Medium is the Message.

We also know that Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk is a dominant feature of the culture of safety.

Where else are people told to believe the impossible (, deny fallibility ( and predict the unpredictable (

The key to being professional is being ethical and not speaking nonsense to people.

So, let’s have a look at this fad slogan of ‘make safety personal’. What is this all about.

Well, the first thing we note is that it is just safety code ( for another behavioural program (

It doesn’t seem to matter whatever Safety spruiks, Behaviourism is just under the surface ( This toxic philosophy ( is the foundation for brutalism which is of course, anti-personal. This is what Safety is so good at, disguising dehumanising strategies with spin and gobbledegook.

We also see the claim this this is ‘different’, when it is not. Anything BBS or behaviourist in safety is just more of the same.

Of course, we also see the old chestnut, injury rates. Once again, the old non-measure of safety trotted out as a measure of safety.

When you have no ethic and no definition of personhood, this is what ‘make safety personal’ means. Do your duty and check your gut! (

So, let’s have a look at a few more examples (first 10 off Google) of what this slogan means:

1. – Inspection checklists

2. – Making humans as a factor in a system

3. – True safety engagement (what?) through safety signage

4. – Incident-free (read zero) workplace (please note no definition of leadership or culture)

5. – Behaviourism through technology

6. – Ha ha ha, ‘thought leadership’ as more of the same

7. – Yep, you guessed it – Journey to Zero

8. – Behaviourism

9. – A training product

10. – A slogan anchored to zero!

11. – Invasive safety moments and promo of safetyDNA (Behaviourism)

OK, so I went over the 10, but couldn’t resist the last one. SafetyDNA is pure Behaviourist Determinism.

And this is what Safety does in language, it thinks it can make anything mean anything. Words and linguistics become irrelevant. Definition is unimportant, say what you like and speak gobbledygook to people – 1% safer! Then call it being ‘professional’.

We can see from these examples that the slogan ‘make safety personal’ doesn’t have any meaning but three themes emerge:

1. The foundation of the word ‘personal’ is the word ‘person’. And please tell me where on the planet does Safety discuss an ethic of personhood. Of course, nowhere. If Safety was to ever embrace the idea of an ethic of personhood it would have to admit that fallibility was foundational and therefore that would be the end of zero.

2. The notion of personal also conveys the meaning of one’s private life and again Safety thinks it has the unethical entitlement to get into such a space, particularly without skills and expertise.

3. The common thread through these examples is a push for Individualism and Behaviourism. Both philosophies that are anti-personal because they are anti-social.

If one really wants to be effective, positive, constructive and practical in safety, one needs to: define culture well, focus on collective responsibility and inter-affectivity and, ensure that safety starts with ‘us’.

This is what we do in SPoR.

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