It’s Never too Late to be Safe

23 Jan, 2013

By Carl Potter and Deb Potter


The New Year is often a time when people reset their goals, start fresh, begin a new chapter, or take any number of other actions to start over. We call it “resetting the counters.” Many organizations make the New Year a time to set forth company-wide safety goals.  Some companies set a goal of “X” incidents, signifying a reduction in OSHA reportable injuries from the previous year.  Others set goals of zero injuries or zero incidents.  These goals are great to motivate people to work safe, yet sometimes the goals seem too lofty for employees.

A Personal Goal for Safety

Another way to approach safety goals is to ask employees to set their own personal targets.  Within their work group, employees can share their personal targets for zero-injury days, for conducting pre-job briefings or inspections, attending safety meetings, or any other targets that apply to your company. Consider this — most employees are going to target zero injuries for every work day. And regardless of the number of employees in the organization, the approach will work.

A team of employees can share their individual goals and develop a team aggregate goal. This will help them be accountable to one another and to look out for each other. The key is to keep the goals personal and to have the employees set the goals themselves. Your organization may have a specific area of focus to reduce injuries. For instance you may strive to reduce hand injuries or slips, trips and falls. If so, engage individual employees and work groups by asking them to develop personal goals for these areas of emphasis.  You may be surprised by the results.

Promoting Success

As you consider the goal that you, other individuals, and work teams set, determine what it will take to be successful.  If your goal is to perform a pre-job briefing for each job, what will you need to accomplish that goal?  Maybe you need to take steps to ensure that a pre-job checklist or form is readily accessible and easy to use.  Perhaps you or others need some training on how to conduct the briefings.  If your goal is to make each job injury-free, you may need to work to understand the common hazards associated with each task and how to control them.  Take time when you set your goal to understand what might get in the way of success and what you can do to overcome the barrier.  Also, take time to understand what you are already doing that will give you the momentum to succeed.

The Best Goal of All

The very best safety goal a person or work team can adopt is “Nobody Gets Hurt.” This goal can be the target for every year, every day and every job.  It’s a goal that you may want to use for yourself or suggest to your team.  When you think about it, the goal can help you look out for yourself and others and is a way to encourage others to look out for you.  This goal can be set anytime of the year.  You don’t have to wait for a new year to roll around.  There is no better time than now to set this goal as your own.

Carl Potter is a board-certified safety professional and a certified management consultant. His body of work includes the development of the Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop and authorship of seven books, including the best-seller, Who is Responsible for Safety? Contact him at

Deb Potter, Ph.D., is a certified management consultant and specializes in safety management consulting for high-risk industries. As the author of Zero! Responsible Safety Management by Design, she works with leaders at all levels of organizations to develop zero-injury cultures.  Contact her at

Illustration by sscreations at Free Digital