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10 Preferred Phrases to Use When Discussing Safety

I recently posted a top 10 list of phrases we shouldn’t use (or allow anyone else to use) when discussing safety.

Phrases like “just use common sense” and “can’t fix stupid.” I used these phrases as a supervisor many years ago, and I still hear them repeated today.
Anyhow, a very astute reader suggested that I post a list of phrases that we should use. So here goes my list:

“Thank you for ____.” Pick anything.

Just make sure it is specific, sincere, and personalized. Deliver it on the spot. Immediate feedback is more impactful. It shows appreciation for their efforts and contributions to a safe work environment. A good example is “Joe, thank you for reporting the hazard. Your efforts will create a safe workplace for everyone.”

I want to follow up with you on the hazard you reported last week.

Reference #1. Not following up soon after thwarts any goodwill built up when you thanked them for reporting the hazard.

I am interested in what you think.

Everyone wants to know their opinion, thoughts, or suggestions are heard and appreciated. Asking someone’s opinion is also a form of recognition—something we can all afford to do more often.

Let’s work on this together.

It shows you value teamwork and, in particular, their input on the issue. It also shows that you think enough of them to want to partner.

I value your safety.

It shows you care. The follow-up is “what can I do to help you create a safer work environment?”

We are a learning organization and view audit findings as an opportunity to improve.

Best used after an incident or a less than stellar audit result. It shows that you understand that most issues result from a management system breakdown, and disciplinary action will not fix the problem. You are not willing to accept substandard performance. Learning organizations view incidents, audits, and inspection findings as an opportunity to identify a breakdown and improve.

How was your vacation?

It shows you care not just about work, but about more important things. Of course, it must be sincere. Otherwise, people will see right through it.

Have you noticed any changes in your work environment?

Recognizes that changes usually bring along new hazards. Noticing something different and the potential dangers is an opportunity to be proactive.

Are you interested in serving on the safety team?

It recognizes their past efforts and provides an opportunity for them to grow. A chance to learn, grow, and be promoted are intrinsic motivators.

I believe every injury is preventable.

I get it that there are two schools of thought here. Using this phrase says you understand there is a direct correlation between possibility thinking and effort level. It says you are willing to give a bit more effort to prevent the next injury, rather than saying, “we couldn’t prevent that incident.”

People generally like talking about themselves more than hearing about us. Inquisitive questions show you care. Asking what they think and how they feel and providing positive feedback keeps people engaged, enthusiastic, and on target. Look for the good in people and let them know they are appreciated. In a nutshell, this is making safety personal.

Using these phrases in a safety context helps to create a positive attitude about safety.

Do you hear these phrases used in your organization? Or do you hear their negative counterparts? If the perception of safety in your organization is not favorable, impactful, and results-driven let me help.

Contact me at or to learn how I can help or learn more about my talks and safety leadership workshops.

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