From the Archives 2000

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 2000 Professional Safety archives examines different types of values, reviews several ways this culture can evolve, and describes how OSH professionals can help their organizations achieve this state.


It has been said that safety is not what is written in a company manual, but rather a “game of signals.” Managers display these signals through their personal behaviors and decisions—actions that tell employees that safety is (or is not) a value. This article examines safety values and the accountability linkage that can make safety a basic value.

All companies have values, whether or not they have identified them. Until the 1980s, little had been written about company values. When business writers do discuss values, they typically address issues such as quality, service, innovation, importance of the individual and profits. As Peters and Waterman (1982) note, “Tough-minded managers and consultants rarely pay much attention to the value system of an organization. Values are not ‘hard’ like organization structure, policies and procedures, strategies or budgets” (p. 279).

It is even rarer to find a business writer who explicitly lists safety among company values because safety is often not associated with economic growth and profits. Yet, few companies would openly admit that safety is not a value. However, some companies may believe that safety is a value within their organization, when, in fact, it is not.

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