Because of the reactive approach to measuring and managing safety prevalent in the world today, the true definition of safety success has been obscured.

The surface definition of safety success on most safety professionals’ minds is simply a reduction in the failure rate. We have been so busy avoiding failure that we need to remind ourselves what success looks like. The word “success” tends to surface every time the accident rates go down, but does the lack of accidents really equate to safety success?

The answer is a definite “maybe.” Reductions in accidents can be the result of successful safety efforts. Reductions also can occur as part of the normal variation in accident rates and a dozen or more other reasons, all of which are temporary. Like the Hawthorne Effect, they are real but not easily sustainable.

So what does safety success look like? How can we recognize it among the temporary imitations? I would like to suggest that all truly