Is Safety Your Company’s Number One Priority?

October 23, 2020 | Blog

If it is, do not Set Yourself Up for Failure.

Safety Is a value that is not up for negotiation. Yellow road sign that reads safety first

Safety is a value that is not up for negotiation


We Hear it all the Time…

We hear it all the time, “Safety is our number one priority”.  Really, is it?  If a business owner was honest, you might hear that profitability and quality service are the highest priorities.  I am a safety guy who owns a business, I get it, and I agree with these owners.  My company will not take on a job that does not have potential for profit and we will provide a quality service.  Those are two of our priorities and they are strong business practices.  On that same note, we will not compromise the safety of our people to make a profit.  Safety is a value that is not up for negotiation. 

What are your Priorities?

Priorities are something we strongly intend to do and believe we can achieve.  But these priorities can change from day to day.  Nothing is going to run as smoothly as we expected, and we need to adjust and change our priorities when the unexpected happens.  For example, every morning I have my priorities.  I get up at the same time, I prepare my lunch, I shower, and I drive to work.  What happens to my priorities if I oversleep?  Depending on how late I am, I will skip preparing my lunch, and the shower may not be an option. My priorities have now changed.  But I value my job and will go to work. 

Do you attend weekly meetings?

Have you ever attended a General Contractor’s weekly project meeting with its subcontractors?  The first thing we talk about is always safety…. Typically, for a very short period of time.  The rest of the meeting is schedule, schedule, schedule!  The perception tends to be that the priority is schedule and safety is secondary.  But this perception is not what was intended.  We need to ensure everyone understands that we lead with our values, followed by our priorities.  Schedules change but our values do not.  “Hurry up and get it done.”, is what they heard.  Many times, they perceive this to mean compromise safety, to get it done.  Hurry is a four-letter word that should never be used.  The pressures of schedule lie on the shoulders of management, not your workforce.  If this is the perception, your safety program is now failing because your employee’s believe safety changes with the schedule.  Inconsistent safety programs based on priorities are doomed to fail.

What do you value?

A value is a person’s standards or judgment of what is important in life.  All our employees lives matter and that value should never be compromised.  Early in my career I held a position as a Project Supervisor/Safety Manager.  At one point I said something to the owner that was ignorant and should never have come out of a person in a management position’s mouth.  “Wearing two hats is a conflict of interest.  I can either make you money or keep your people safe.  I can’t do both.”  I will never forget her look of disbelief when I said it.  She was visibly upset and immediately began to educate me.  She said (as I paraphrase), you are telling me that the only way for my company to make a profit is to put people in harms way.  That is unacceptable. Powerful words from a very intelligent business owner.  In two sentences, she changed my views of what safety is and how it should be perceived by management and our employees.  Safety is not a conflict of interest.  Safety is a value that she is not willing to compromise to make a profit. 

Don’t let your values change.

No matter how late for work I am in the morning, my values will not change.  I will dress appropriately for work, and I will not drive dangerously fast to get to work.  No matter my schedule, I will not compromise my safety.  On your projects, it should be clear, we have priorities and they are important, but we will not compromise our values to achieve those goals.  I challenge you to ensure your company has strong values in safety and instill those values into each and every one who works for you and your company.  We value our people and their safety.  This is non-negotiable. Safety should be your company’s number one priority. Safety is a value that is not up for negotiation.


Troy Clark, President of MSC Inc.
Troy Clark

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