Simply Safety

Added on Mar 17, 2015

Safety requires system reliability, and system reliability comes with simplicity. So why are we using so many words in our safety language? Just like the Elvis Presley song – A little less conversation, a little more action please – we should be saying less and doing more.

I have always admired people who made significant points using few words.

US President Calvin Coolidge – silent Cal – was challenged at a dinner party by a guest. “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” Cal’s reply – “you lose.” Cal also said “I never got into trouble for something I didn’t say.”

Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words. Hemingway worked on his story overnight. Here is his final draft – baby shoes for sale, never worn… Wow.

Hemingway is also credited – perhaps incorrectly so – with writing “sorry my letter is so long – if I had more time it would be shorter.”

Another noted author – Paul Johnson – commented on his biography of George Washington. “Anyone can write 1,000 pages about the man. Try fitting his life into 144 pages.”

So why do we clutter our safety language with so many words? Here is some collected safety wisdom that I have heard over the years – simply said:

  • Flight Safety
    Always fly in the center of the sky. Stay away from the edges where the flying is no good.

  • Nuclear Safety
    Keep the fission products in the fuel and away from the people.

  • Safety Afloat
    Keep the people in the boat and the water out of the boat. Keep the boat on the water and don’t hit other boats.

  • Personal Safety
    Go home in the same condition you came in.

  • Patient Safety
    Don’t Harm Me.


So. So what will we, as safety leaders, say to our people tomorrow about safety? Will we clutter our safety language with a lot of words? Or – will we be like Elvis and look for a little less conversation and a little more action please?

And when your people say “yes, I too am ready for more action please” – what will we ask them to do?

  • 1. Hank Williams Jr. recorded A Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action. (Apparently he was seeing less action than Elvis.)
  • 2. Don't Harm Me, Heal Me, Be Nice to Me is a service mark of Healthcare Performance Improvement.