23rd Oct, 2019 Read time 3 minutes

What are the fundamental principles behind Safety Differently?

Whilst in many industries safety is still viewed as a paper-driven process reliant on compliance on documentation many minds in the field are looking to spread awareness about how the approach to safety can be brought into the 21st century. This is where ‘Safety Differently’ has come from.

The ideology found its routes in the mind of john green who felt that traditional health and safety process did not do enough to meet the challenges of a modern workplace. Here are the main principles of Safety Differently and how to start implementing it in your workplace.


Principle 1: People offer the solution not the problem

A criticism often levelled at old HSE practice is how they view personnel in an organisation as the main problem in health and safety issues without focusing on the positives. Safety differently poses the idea that safety should consider people within the organisation as the solution. This is achieved by focusing on successes in an HSE context. This can be through the praise and recognition of activities that are beneficial for health and safety.


Principle 2: Safety is about instilling positives not the absence of negatives

The safety differently approach looks to encourage more of the ground level staff to take on ownership of the safety processes in an organisation. Part of this stems from r human psychology.

A lot of research discusses the poor impact negative reinforcement has on workers in both a health and safety and a wider organisational context. Safety differently encourages workers to praise others and instead of warning against negative incidents, to put in place actionable steps that give employees a process to work towards in regards to health and safety.


Principle 3: safety should be an ethical responsibility, not a bureaucratic activity

Many areas of health and safety are concerned purely with compliance and this often leads to a lack of focus on human performance and the analysis of the root cause of safety issues. This is one of the reasons why the new focus on wellbeing has come through in health and safety circles.

One of the ways that you can implement it is through liaising with front line staff and working out how their processes can be improved to increase their health and safety performance.


Some tips on how to implement safety differently in your organisation

Whilst many attend conferences on safely differently and are enthused by the prospect of implementing it like many professional changes they can be overlooked. Here are some practical changes you can make in your workplace to start implementing Safety Differently:

  • Create a feedback system in which your employees can review their work processes from a health and safety perspective
  • Give more input and decision making abilities to ground-level employees so policy is changed in the factory, not in the boardroom.
  • Reward and reinforce positive steps in your employee’s behaviour towards health and safety


Safety differently as a concept is relatively new in the health and safety field. This is one of the reasons why it has been the subject of academic and professional criticism. In some respect having a modern interpretation of the traditional health and safety philosophy will give you the benefits of safety differently without having to completely rewrite the rule book.

HSE Network
Article by: HSE Network

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