Making Safety Sexy

Innovative ways to inspire safety in the workplace.

We are all invincible right? Most of us inadvertently carry our superhero mentality with us to work everyday. The “it will never happen to me” mindset is embedded in our inner fibers.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2012 ( OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) states that 4,175 workers were killed on the job that same year! OSHA also cites that employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct Workers’ Compensation costs alone (

Injuries occur on a daily basis across all industries. Let’s look at some ways to make safety sexy while decreasing the number of injuries and costs associated with poor safety in the workplace. In other words: “Don’t learn safety by accident.”

Think Bites, Not Days

Training does not need to encompass an entire day to be effective. Most of the work we do is set in industries with 24/7 operations. We have developed 20- to 40-minute training bites that have an immediate safety impact.

Gather everyone in the office to do some ergonomic stretching, take your employees on a quick tour of the building so they know where the emergency exits and fire extinguishers are, watch a first aid video on YouTube, or do a quick walkthrough in the workplace allowing employees to identify potential hazards.

Training in short bites has been an effective approach to transferring retainable knowledge without having to take up an entire day. Training bites are easy to execute; you do not need to prepare a PowerPoint deck. Wouldn’t your trainees be excited to know they were going to attend a training session with no PowerPoint?


There are plenty of opportunities in our daily routines to infuse safety activity without dedicating much additional time. In many industries, it is common to start meetings with a safety share. A safety share is a brief contribution of information highlighting a safety concern that affects the group.

You can facilitate a short safety activity during lunchtime, find time during a training day to discuss safety, or put signs up around the workplace highlighting certain safety items. Integration of safety information into reoccurring daily practices helps ensure that safety stays at the forefront of what people do.

Paul O’Neill, former CEO of Alcoa, is famous for integrating safety into Alcoa’s culture. Within a year of his tenure, Alcoa’s revenue hit a record high. By the time he stepped down, Alcoa’s annual net income was five times greater than when he took command. His safety focus helped the company gain $27 billion in market capitalization. Integrating safety into organizational culture and daily routines does not just protect the health of our employees, it minimizes re-work, streamlines operation, and boosts productivity.

Make Safety Fun

Safety…fun…really? When most of us think of safety training, we think of a video from the ’70’s or drawn-out lectures that are lackluster at best. Imagine Ferris Bueller’s Economics teacher for 8 hours. Bueller… Bueller…

In contrast, imagine having to balance an egg on a spoon during a relay race to show the importance of maintaining optimal speeds when operating a vehicle or piece of heavy equipment. Or playing charades where people act out various distractors that can prevent us from working safe. There are many ways to have fun with safety while teaching valuable lessons that can be incorporated into daily work routines.

DIY Safety Plans

One of the training techniques we have developed is the DIY (Do It Yourself) approach. When we want to further develop a group of individuals who already possess knowledge, we create a customized series of actions for them to follow. Often, we know where we need to go, we just do not know how to get there. With this approach we help lay out the path.

One example is customizing a series of safety-focused initiatives that trainees are responsible for executing on their own. Using an online portal, employees receive their goals for the week. They have the freedom, flexibility, and autonomy to meet these goals, then report back what they found and the outcomes they generated by the established due date. Goals can be focused around having safety conversations with employees, checking to make sure fire extinguishers are in good working order, and more.

Safety Development Approach

We use the following model to help build successful safety solutions that can have a positive impact on your organization:

1: Build for impact: Plan for alignment between the message you want to impart and the mode (the activity).

2: Set up for success: Give clear, specific, and strategic direction; how the activity is established is critical. There is a fine balance here: Providing somewhat ambiguous direction leaves the most space for the discovery of your message to be natural rather than contrived, but the guidelines should be clear enough to get the group there without trouble.

3: Observe and track: Once the activity begins, focus on identifying the desired behaviors; look for team dynamics, communication, interactions, and anything else that can be connected to the success or failure of the trainees.

4: Connect and debrief: Reflect after every activity. Share your observations from the previous step, and examine the learning by asking questions that will lead the group to further their connection with the experience.

5: Apply: During the debriefing phase or during the daily review, it is essential to spark conversation about how to apply the learning in the workplace. Turning these memorable experiences into actions is the end goal.

6 Support: Trainees who receive the necessary support and recognition are far more likely to apply the things learned in safety training in the workplace. Supervisory or management support is the fuel that keeps the employee going.

In short, nobody should ever have to leave his or her work setting in an ambulance or with an icepack or a Band-Aid, even if that Band-Aid is a cool Scooby Doo one.

For additional information about how to make safety sexy within your organization, contact

Steven Cohen is cofounder and CEO of Meyvn Global, a contemporary training consultancy with roots in the mining industry. He has logged thousands of hours focused on developing people in an organizational setting. Cohen is constantly building models for improving organizational health. He holds an MS in organizational development from Pepperdine University, and a BA in speech communication from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.