• Zach Granzow

The Safety Pattern

Updated: Jul 13

Our brains are a wonderful and complex organ. A unique brain operation is our desire to find and see patterns. We are always looking for dots to connect and to make sense of what we are observing. When we pull into a parking lot, we are looking for the pattern and structured organization of the parking stalls. How often are we frustrated because “that one person” did not park between the lines and messed up the pattern?


There is a pattern with safety as well. It helps to create the culture that we want. The safety pattern is made of three parts:


Level One: Emotional Safety

Level Two: Professional Safety

Level Three: Physical Safety


Level One: Emotional Safety

No one likes explaining why a mistake happened, a work task was not completed correctly, or a goal was not met. We would rather explain the why and how we were successful. So, we tend to put ourselves at risk physically to protect ourselves emotionally. There are three internal questions every person has for every relationship – personal and professional. Do you care about me? Can I trust you? Are you committed to me? To create emotional safety, the answer to each question must be yes.

Emotional safety means feeling valued. We may not like to admit it, but our sense of self-worth is influenced by our perception of how others perceive us. A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected. When we know our peers and superiors truly cares about our emotional well-being, we know they care about our physical well-being too. We know they wouldn’t want us taking unnecessary risks which could put us in harm’s way. When we see they truly value us, including our overall safety, so will we.

Level Two: Professional Safety

Most of us like being respected and known as that employee who will do everything necessary to help meet the goal. Our work is our livelihood. When we feel our job security may be at risk, we may take unnecessary risks to protect our employment, putting ourselves at physical risk. We may use shortcuts, such as not taking the time to get the right tools or put on the PPE.

Safety, almost always, requires a little extra time and effort. If we feel that the performance goals are more important to management than our safety, the extra time and effort will not be given. Very successful companies, like Toyota and Southwest Airlines have done an excellent job of establishing that their employees are their number one asset. These companies recognize their employees need to feel valued and as part of their team. Their philosophy is performance issues are correctable by training and designing better ways of working. They succeed because they want their employees to succeed.

Level Three: Physical Safety

Physical safety is the tangible elements such as equipment safeguards, workspace design and processes, and PPE that most people think about when asked about safety. But this is the last level. Only when we know we are cared about emotionally and professionally will we believe we are cared about physically. Level one through two is the test regarding loyalty from management to employees. Without the first two, level three becomes difficult to reach. When employees feel valued and protected, the physical safety is naturally accepted. It just makes sense.


The Safety Pattern

With safety, we need to connect the dots in the correct order. Employees need to know they are valued on all three levels. Meeting these needs will lead employees to being more engaged and loyal, and fewer safety incidents on the floor. It is up to management to create the culture of valuing safety by following this pattern; and it is up to us, as individuals, to share the same value of safety in respect to each other.

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