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Make Safety a Personal Thing: Adopt a Safety Code of Conduct

By Carl Potter, CSP, CMC and Deb Potter, PhD, CMC,
Potter and Associates International, Inc.

Far too often, workers ignore even the most basic, yet life-saving safety procedures – procedures like using machine guards, apply appropriate protection when working around electricity, and wearing proper personal protective equipment.

When Safety Isn’t Personal

On further investigation, we often find that these workers just simply don’t like the safe work procedures of their company. They consider safety something that someone is “doing to them” rather than a way to protect themselves, their co-workers, and their families. They don’t take safety personally.

Reasons Why Workers Don’t Follow The Rules

Often we talk with managers and supervisors who are very frustrated with workers who blatantly ignore safe work procedures. While it seems very simple that a company would establish safe work procedures based on the known hazards associated with producing its products or services, it is not that straightforward.

Consider these reasons that some workers ignore or fail to adopt work procedures:

1. Safe work procedures are developed without appropriate worker input. Many companies have safety committees and rule committees. Sometimes employees are included in these committees. When employees aren’t included, the rules and work procedures are not suitable for the work. This is the best way to ensure that rules are ignored!

2. New rules or work procedures are not well-communicated. When a work procedure or safety rule is adopted, it may not be communicated effectively. Sometimes a rule or work procedure change is announced in a safety meeting and merely glossed over without appropriate discussion to ensure complete understanding. This is a great way to make sure that people aren’t fully aware of the purpose of a rule.

3. Work procedures and changes are not adequately enforced. We often see that supervisors, crew leaders, and foremen don’t take responsibility for enforcing a new rule or work procedure change. Sometimes such leaders are not comfortable with the change themselves, or do not agree with it. Other times they are unwilling to take measures such as retraining or disciplinary action to assure that workers know the importance of following the rules.

4. Workers publicly accept a rule and privately disregard it. Sometimes it’s difficult to see that workers are nodding in agreement when a rule change is communicated, yet choosing to ignore the rule or improperly apply their own “rules.” It’s a passive resistance to following the rules.

5. Workers don’t think the rules apply to them. The number one reason that workers don’t follow the rules is they don’t think they need the rules to stay safe. They think they are experienced enough, smart enough, or strong enough to withstand the risk of injury. This kind of attitude is at the root of many injury-related incidents.


Adopt A Safety Code Of Conduct

Whether you are a leader or a follower, see if you recognize any of the attitudes and behaviors described above. Chances are, you do. Maybe safety just isn’t a personal thing for you.

But, if you are injured, it will become very personal to you and your family. You don’t want that to happen! Take a forward-thinking approach to safety and adopt a code of safe conduct. A code of safe conduct is a set of personal parameters that you will always follow; they are the standard by which you operate day in and day out.

Here are a few ideas for your consideration: 

  1. Safety is my number one priority.
  2. I will look out for others and myself.
  3. I will immediately stop any job or task that I believe is unsafe.
  4. I will seek excellence in my work.
  5. I will always behave as a professional and will learn all I can about my work.
  6. I will recognize and manage risks appropriately.
  7. I will always address any hazards when I become aware of them.
  8. I will adhere to the company’s safety rules.

You can certainly adopt this list “as is” for your code of safe conduct; it will be an even more meaningful list if you make it personal by adding a few of your own parameters.

Ask yourself what you need to do every day, in every job to keep yourself and others safe. This will ensure that your personal approach to safety is at the highest level so you can go home every day to your family without injury.


About the authors

Carl Potter, CSP, CMC and Deb Potter, PhD, CMC work with organizations that want to create an environment where nobody gets hurt. As advocates of a zero-injury workplace, they are safety speakers, authors, and consultants to industry. For information about bringing Carl and Deb to your company or your next conference, contact them at Potter and Associates International, Inc. 800-259-6209 or

Potter and Associates International, Inc.


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