Safety Third – Huh??

So, you are asking yourself, what is going on? The man that has graced the cover of Grainger’s safety catalog and has done public service announcements for the Army’s “Own the Edge” campaign, is now publicly taking the position that safety is not important? How dare he? What kind of role model is this for a man that frequently finds himself in dangerous (not to mention dirty) positions? Something must be done!

Waitaminute now. Before you start writing letters to complain to anybody, listen *carefully* to his message. What Mike’s saying is that while safety equipment, procedures, OSHA and all that are important, it is not a replacement for good old fashion common sense. Plainly speaking, no one cares more about your safety than you. Not your employer. Not your friend. Not even your spouse. Well, maybe your spouse but do you really want to put your safety in their hands when you may have forgotten to take out the garbage last night?

31 thoughts on “Safety Third – Huh??

  1. Mr Rowe,

    I have been a safety professional since 1980. I must say I found Safety 3rd to be insightful and absolutely on target.

    Thank you and I will share this link will my fellow safety Professionals.

  2. for every second that we take the time to be Safe, we can save lives, save limbs and save each other. We must. Thank you Mike for that realization that it is up to us to watch out and not think its going to be the next guy. We are the next guy.

  3. Outstanding vidio, and well put. Being in the truck driving field snd having conducting many meetings and safety classes, I usually get around to asking the question “what is the number one peice of safety equipment you have?” I have gotten many valid answers, but the only correct on is-“your Brain” ! Love the new websight and done good on FOX this morning. Good Luck and God Bless.

  4. I have lost track of how many time’s I’ve shared this with people, as well as my co-workers. Having been a team safety officer previously, I really wish you had this up before.

    Thank you!

  5. When I started out in the trades this one old timer we worked for, whenever he was asked by a helper about safety equipment. Would ask in turn what our most important piece of safety equipment was. Usually the helper would shrug and the old timer would poke him good and hard right in the middle of the forehead. Just to drive home a point which made a unforgettable impression on the young helper . Of course this might be assault today.

  6. I watched your speach on the the RFD channel to the FFA last night. I was really inspired especially by the safety first part. I GOT IT. This applys to sales also. I lead a team of sales people and if they are being safe worried about feeling rejection if the customer says no, then they will never get the gold.

    Thanks Mike and great speach to the kids of the FFA. I hope you will post the entire speach online or have it available someway soon.

  7. Mike

    Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to the FFA members. My daughter was in that gathering of over 44,000 FFA members and I thank you for your influence. My daughter is an officer in her local FFA as is her brother.

    Your show ‘airs’ in my living room on a regular basis along with ‘reruns’ from the segment they say earlier in the day/week.

    You ought to hang out with Teri Reed,from Marion County Missouri the Philadelphia MO chapter. She cares for about 30 chickens as her sae project and she knows what a ‘dirty job’ can be everytime she cleans that chicken house.

    Mike, thank you again – your influence is wonderful

    Sincerely, Mrs. Teri L. Reed

  8. MIKE…as a cattle producer, high school AG science teacher, and FFA advisor and another guy who has to “go to work” I just wanted to say thanks for being such a great great role model and example to our young people…I, my sons, and my 154 students love dirty jobs!!! Thanks for supporting FFA. You are one of the best speakers that I can remember at the nation convention….and we all appreciate your role as an advocate for agriculture!

  9. safety first

    Posted as part of an attempt to begin to write on this confounded internet place again. Originally appeared as stream of consciousness, with a brief preface about liking a romantic entanglement due, in part, to it’s “safety.” I’m doing that thing I just said right now, by the way, so don’t start thinking that I practice what I preach.

    i hate every time somebody uses the word safe. it sets me off. safe? like that is the top priority? what about all of the other priorities? safe doesn’t imply creation at all, in fact, it implies explicitly running away from possible creation if that is deemed the “safe” action. safe is an excuse for pansy-ass.

    i don’t know how else to say it. “maybe more people would listen to you if you took a while to express what you were saying in a less extreme way.” seriously, a peer–no a sophomore or a junior or something–some person who is way younger than me told me this the other day. and heres the thing: NO THEY WON’T. maybe they’ll listen, but they won’t hear.

    because i’m not just trying to make an academic point about this safety obsession. i’m trying to make a very personal point about the safety obsession too. that part of my point is that IT PISSES ME OFF. i’ve never broken a bone, i’ve never tried hard drugs, i’ve never seriously hurt someone and yet everyone is constantly telling me to be safe. i’ve been safe, i’ve been so safe that i’m not even afraid of not being safe.

    our world is so safe. everything about it is safe. the level of assurance we need to take any piddling action is miles above the threshold that simple practicality would demand of a person living so recently as the 1950’s. we can be so sure now that when we’re not we are totally paralyzed. when we can’t have someone tell us it’s ok, when we can’t go to the bathroom as a group, when we have to touch an ambiguous area; we first let our fear manifest itself in its brand-new acceptable mask: safety. courtesy.

    with the exception of possible economic interpretations: we don’t live in a china world. humans are pretty hard to kill, all things considered. humans are in fact resilient, intelligent, autonomous creatures that can adapt and respond to a wide range of situations and sensory inputs. that’s why we run (and destroy) this planet. we’re virulently good at adapting to our situations.

    the problem is that we are adapting to our overly safe new lifestyles terribly. japan’s antibacterial craze lead to a greater ability for disease to spread through the populace. our interconnectedness has allowed for a greater ability of fear to spread through ours. it’s like the internet finally unfogged the windows for most of us and, in looking out at the world, all we can do is thank god that we are inside our steel box and pray never to leave.

    i say no. man descended from monkeys, who don’t live under roofs and who don’t understand what the word “safe” means. safe is not the most important thing. treating yourself like you are fragile does not make you strong and does not make you safe and able to respond well to threats. it makes you a dependent, cowering, herd animal. dammit, people: go out and do some awesome stuff. safety does not come first, safety just comes at some point before you do something that is going to kill you. that’s the only place you need to make sure it goes in the order. there is lots of leeway otherwise.

    and here is my suggestion: do some things that scare you. allow just a little vulnerability. let somebody tell you the truth or love you. go and drive fast or drink until you finally say the thing that has been festering in your mind. being trapped inside, whether you are a thought or a human generates a lot of stale air. and the only way to expel that air to open up the doors, just a little. i’m not saying burn the house down.

    i’m saying, at the very least: stop telling ME to be so safe all the time. it’s just stupid.

  10. Mike, You are absolutely RIGHT ! I’ve been a Brick layer, Carpenter, roofer (all trades I’m Good at) Now I build my own homes – myself (well mostly by myself). The OSHA rules mostly just got in the way. ( when I shingle or hang siding I wont wear the anti-fall gear, It creates more of a hazzard and just plain gets in the way ! If you just remain mindfull of what your doing, use commonsense and be aware of your limitations you’ll be just fine. I’ve been in my own home building business a long time now, (I’m 54 )and I’ve come to realize the Government can’t protect you from your own stupidity. We made a joke at work about roofing, The first rule is “Don’t Fall” Just plain old common sense.

  11. Well it is Saturday and I am working as the Inspector of a Pier and Ship Terminal being built in San Diego, and your comment about watching out for ourselves and it being our duty hit right on the head (No pun intended). Keep up the get work and keep Dity Jobs alive.

  12. Bravo Mike! My husband is always saying, “The world needs ditch-diggers.”

    You have identified one of the major reasons that this country is headed in the wrong direction. Other “less developed” areas of the world have much more skilled laborers than in the US. Now, I’m not knocking the hard-working men and women that you film and work with every day. It’s just that, in my opinion, most Americans ‘don’t want to get their hands dirty’.

    The real issue is liability. The US is an incredibly litigious, profit-driven, and opportunistic society. Such is the nature of our way of doing business.

    If you have time (which I’m sure you don’t), check out the documentary entitled “The Corporation” and you’ll see what I’m referring to.

    Best wishes,

    Just another fan in Long Beach, CA

  13. There was an article Nov. 15 in the UK’s Times Online newsite about health and safety inspections of family homes. It will essentially allow inspectors the ability to enter particularly risky homes to see if they are safe for children. It quotes one fellow as saying, “bad parents will now have someone else to blame if they don’t bring up their children in a sensible, safe environment.” Seems particularly applicable to Mike’s comments about safety, and it illustrates just how pervasive and perverted the emphasis on safety has gotten.


  14. Mike, I work in the shipyards. I’ve been a shipfitter, a lead man, and a foreman. I’ve given so many safety training sessions it isn’t funny. I always tell people that the single most important safety device is YOURSELF. You have to be aware of your surroundings at all time, and you have to try to have eyes in the back of your head, too. Last thing I tell the workers is that every time someone has an accident, that it wasn’t an accident. That someone forgot or ignored the safety rules. And last but not least, those rules are written in blood…don’t make it yours.

    Thanks for all the things you do, Mike, I really enjoy seeing you. And FYI, you are the best grand marshall a NASCAR race has ever had!

  15. Mike,

    As the others have said in so many words, you speak the truth! When I was a kid on a very small farm I remember riding on the back of a drag (trailer with multiple spikes instead of wheels)–standing on it to give it weight to dig into the ground we were drying to level. I felt off and in between the spikes. Fortunately the tractor driver saw this and stopped before I was hurt more than just a few scrapes and bruises. I suggested to the driver that we load some logs to weigh down the drag instead of using a 90lb kid. I convinced him finally when I explained that way I could be free to drive the truck to town to get hay for the horses at the same time (I was 14.) So, while I am not advocating dangerous child labor or underaged driving, I am a big advocate of common sense and getting the job done one way or another!

  16. Mike I agree with 100%. It seems these days production is the main prioraty. We are trained on safety evereyday but sometimes (every day)We do things that the ordinary person would think was crazy. Dont get me wrong I work with an awsome crew, we are brothers. But it seems safety is third.

  17. I dont know where you get the greatest ideas in the world but this one is pretty cool. I understand what you are saying and i admire that. I watch your dirty job shows and i play games on the discovery channel, and went to your website and i looked for a job i picked the electrical one and it helped me alot so thank you mike rowe and keep doing a great work. If you can, send me a posture with your signature to my email address it will be cool. thank you.

  18. When you like to a good academic grade, you should make the perfect social issues essays. An the superb essay referring to this post could be a correct source for custom essay paper creating, I do opine.

  19. Dear Mike,

    Your “Safety 3rd” is reality, and speaks the truth, plain and simple. It should be incorporated into all safety training and practices abroad. I have been in the construction for twenty four years, and safety is our responsibilty, as “individuals”. Anyway, “great job”; keep it coming!

  20. Wonderful video.
    The quote from the captain reminded me why I’m a free-market capitalist, too… same philosophy… I’m NOT here to keep you safe…

    thanks for THAT epiphany, too!

  21. Mike,

    I have been with the military for over 24yrs now. They preach, praise and implement the “Safety First” motto. It’s funny because everytime I hear it from them all I ask myself is “How safe do they think combat is?”

    Anyways I caught on to the blandness of the “Safety First” motto many many years ago. I knew it was bogus but wasn’t sure how to handle safety after that. Until one day, not long after, it hit me. I think this applies a little bit better to everyone including soldiers in combat. It is “Mission first, Safety always.”


  22. Mike, I love your view on safety. At the City of Fargo in North Dakota, we have talked alot about this in our safety meetings and have started to show this video to employees. It really has changed the way I view safety and has refreshened the topic so to speak. It no longer sounds like Charlie Browns teacher…

  23. I hear what your saying Mike but I just don’t buy it. The number 1 goal of any business is to make a profit AND send everyone home in the same condition they arrived.

    Unfortunately you can’t leave this up to the individual workers common sense because we aren’t born knowing how to keep ourselves safe. As we grow we learn personal safety through trial and error. In a workplace we have to be taught how to identify potential danger and keep ourselves, and our workmates safe.

    Our workplace culture frequently has to be changed so that the team naturally stop and take time to consider how to do a particular job safely. This takes a lot of repitition and time. The tools we use to do this are inductions, warning signs and safety messages and daily safety dialogues.

    As a member of a team who chooses to make ‘keeping people safe’ a non negotiable part of making a profit I make no apologies for using these tools.

    These people were in my industry and wouold have lived had they been properly trained by their employer and known how to put safety first.

  24. Mike I am glad that you have the balls to call this safety first idea like it is. I am a pipefitter in California and I think that we as a nation are taking safety a little too far. I am tired of my job taking me 4 hours to cross my safety Tee’s and dot my safety I’s to do a job that will take a total of fifteen minutes. For the most part people get hurt not for lack of safety rules but because they are too stupid to do what is necessary to prevent the accident (with some exceptions). And because of this neglect the government feels that they need to impose new proticalls on the rest of us to prevent us from being stupid as well. I am also tired of being told that the reason for the institution of the government program OSHA is to prevent accidents and to save lives, this isn’t the case at all, if they were truly concerned about protectin life then they would close the abortion centers. The real reason is the fiscal impact that accidents have on our economy due to the fact that we cant get the trial lawyers under control and we have taken away the responsibility for ones safety and put it the hands of a government institution. Safety officers are another thing that bother me, these are people who couldn’t be constructive citizens so they chose to sit behind a desk and regulate us who are productive. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that I want to work unsafely I am just tired of feeling like I am swimming in a sea of regulations and new policies, I just wish that OSHA would get out of my way and that they would quit trying to convince me that they are morally superior because they institute these ridiculous new policies in the name of safety.

  25. BRAVO ! Not only is “Safety Third” the funniest “slogan” I’ve seen in a loong time…In two words it shines a light on the silly notion that a certain amount of reasonable risk isn’t acceptable if one chooses to live his or her life “closer to the edge” than the gutless majority. I’ve done all kinds of “dangerous” activities in my seventy years, have come very close to getting myself killed a couple of times and sustained a few serious injuries over the years but, I’ve never done anything that involved FOOLISH risk and, looking back, I’D DO IT ALL AGAIN. I’m getting “Safety Third” t-shirts for both my grandsons….

  26. Safety first. No, if safety is the most important criteria to evaluate an activity, then the safest thing to do is stay home in bed. Pretty safe there. Common sense is no longer common. If you gotta warn people about spilling hot coffee, lawyers and sue happy clients have ruined the American way of life. There has to be a need to do a job or activity. Evaluate it to see if the effort is worth the risk. I am gonna come through without injury? Do I have enough skills? Too many think they can sue if the get messed up. Basically it comes down to taking personal responsibility for your own well being. It is not someone else job to keep you safe.

    You gotta think.

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