16 Examples of Safety
John Spacey, February 02, 2016 updated on October 09, 2021
Safety is the reduction or minimization of risks to human health. This includes practical controls that are win-win such as reasonable regulations that make products or workplaces safer. Safety can also be a contentious issue where safety controls interfere with other goals in areas such as the human experience, culture or economic production. The following are illustrative examples of safety.
Workplace SafetyLaws, regulations, standards, controls, best practices and culture designed to prevent workplace related injuries and health problems. Many jobs expose workers to significant physical, biological and psychosocial hazards such that robust workplace safety saves lives and prevents debilitating injury.
Consumer ProtectionDeveloped nations typically regulate the health and safety risks associated with products. This includes risks such as contaminated or unhealthy food, dangerous chemicals and hazardous products.
Transportation SafetyThe laws and regulations that apply to transportation systems and infrastructure such as roads and airlines.
StandardsStandards in areas such as construction, product design or workplace safety that can be used to scale good practices across an industry.
Human ErrorHuman error is the study of how accidents and incidents can be caused by human behavior such as inattention while driving. Generally speaking, most accidents involve some form of human error.
Latent Human ErrorAs human error can be reasonably expected to occur, it is not acceptable to simply blame people when things go wrong. Processes, procedures, machines, equipment, vehicles and user interfaces can be designed to prevent human error or minimize its impact. Where a process fails to consider human error -- the process is the true cause of human error not the humans themselves. For example, an aircraft maintenance process may include a large number of manual double-checks and automated validations such that no single human can cause a serious problem. A system that fails to consider human error is known as a latent human error.
Safety by DesignDesigning things to be inherently safe. For example, a power tool with a dead man's switch whereby a human must continually apply pressure to a switch to activate the tool. This causes the machine to automatically turn off if something happens to the operator and removes the temptation to leave the tool running unattended.
Safety EngineeringThe use of engineering to make things safe. For example, a building that is designed to be extremely resilient to earthquakes and strong winds.
Risk ManagementRisk management is the process of identifying risks and taking steps to treat them. This can include steps to accept, mitigate and reduce safety risks.
Risk MinimizationRisk management should not be confused with risk minimization. It is can be extraordinarily expensive to minimize a risk such that it is more common to reduce risk to some acceptable level. Likewise, it is possible to simply accept a risk without reducing it.
Risk TakingRisk taking can benefit risk reduction, particularly in the long term. For example, when humans first accomplished powered flight, it was inherently dangerous. With time, aircraft were improved to become safer per mile of travel than many other modes of transport. Excessive retreat from reasonable risk can backfire.
ResilienceResilience is an alternative or complement to the risk management approach of identifying specific risks and working to reduce them. Resilience cultivates or designs things to be inherently strong and resistant to stresses. For example, formulating foods from ingredients that are known to be safe and healthy as opposed to experimenting with complex novel ingredients that require extensive risk analysis.
Precautionary PrincipleThe precautionary principle is the principle that the burden of proof is on the side of producers to show that their products are safe. This is used to counter the historical situation where dangerous and unhealthy products were launched to market and left on the market for decades because it took this long to build and accept 100% proof that they were dangerous.
Dread RiskA dread risk is a risk that people strongly fear such that they will pay a very high cost to reduce it. This can become quite irrational whereby larger secondary risks are created due to excessive fear.
False DichotomyA false dichotomy is the invalid assertion that two things are a trade-off such that you can't have both. This can come up in risk management, particularly when dealing with dread risk. For example, the assertion that you can't manage a risk without giving up freedoms when there may be other ways to manage it.
PaternalismPaternalism is a situation where a government, large corporation or similar bureaucracy treats adults as having low agency whereby they are viewed as incapable of making their own choices in life. This is often related to safety and security whereby a government bureaucracy charged with reducing or minimizing risk may try to implement aggressive controls that place significant limits on rights and freedoms. For example, a city that bans a sport because someone got injured whereby they don't allow people to make their own choices regarding risk.
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