From the Archives 1990

The safety profession continues to evolve as its practitioners adapt to the changing world of work and business, apply advancements in science and technology, and respond to world events. Yet, regardless of the era, safety professionals consistently demonstrate strong dedication to making the world a safer, healthier place.

This article from the 1990 Professional Safety archives explores the relationship of hazards management to the concept of risk control, describes developments in defining the role of the safety professional, and offers perspective on what was evolving in the field of hazards management as well as the accompanying needs.


In addressing the future of the safety profession, I would like, first, to review what I believe to be a needed understanding of who we safety professionals are and of the generic base of our existence. Then, I will discuss what I perceive to be evolving in our profession, and the attendant needs.

Since I have been in too many situations in which senior management personnel did not understand the role of the safety professional, I have been very pleased with two recent developments that define our function.

Particularly since it has been nearly impossible to find a sound and explainable definition of safety in our literature, I believe that the National Safety Council took a significant step forward by including in its 1989 Annual Report a definition of safety with which thinking safety professionals can be comfortable.

Safety was defined as “the control of recognized hazards to attain an acceptable level of risk.”

Why do I consider this definition to be important? As a very beginning, a profession ought to be able to describe its practice in logical and understandable terms.

An additional action of significance was taken at the February 1990 BCSP meeting when a definition of safety practice was written:

Safety practice is the identification, evaluation and control of hazards to prevent or mitigate harm or damage to people, property, or the environment. That practice is based on knowledge and skill as respects applied engineering, applied sciences, management, and legal/regulatory and professional affairs.

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