From Reactive to Proactive Safety: How to Make it Happen (Part 1)

Updated: Jul 29

This article is a series in two parts. Read Part 2 here.

Part 1

You may ask yourself, “How am I going to move from being reactive to proactive in my safety culture?”  This is a common question in the world of occupational safety, especially if you find your culture is stale, if you have recurring injuries or if an organization knows they must do something different to improve their incident rates.  Being proactive takes time, energy and intentionality. Before getting into the nuts and bolts, we’ll examine the difference between these two terms, define the problem and then look at potential solutions. Even when your resources are limited, there are ways to start and sustain proactivity.  


A “Reactive” safety approach is nuclear, waiting on the reaction, waiting until an incident or injury occurs before moving towards prevention.  Being reactive hopes for a positive outcome that avoids a fatal or catastrophic result. “Pro” in the Greek can be defined as “before” or literally “in front”.  Being proactive plainly means taking action in front of results – this is a necessity for success when it comes to preventing incidents.


Before defining a specific solution for the lack of “proactive” activity, a deeper issue may prevalent.  Does a plan for safety success exist? Effective safety solutions begin with a strategic plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated or have aspirations to conquer the world, but there are certain elements that must be considered.  A strategic plan must include actionable, specific goals with deadlines and responsible persons. Goals must be attainable and be aligned with the organization’s mission and vision statement. Without a vision, people perish. The workforce wants to know the plan, be involved in the plan but most importantly they must believe in the plan.  Basically, the plan states “this is what we’re going to do to prevent injuries”. Similar to military operations, organizations must plan their work and work their plan.


That’s the end of Part 1. Read Part 2 here.

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