Safety Must Be Competitive

“Safety is not competitive.”

I last heard it from a conference speaker this week.

It’s meant to engender an open sharing of best practices and a free flow of ideas. The thought comes from the idea that safety is a basic human right and comes with legal and moral obligations.

I think it’s wrong. Safety is (and deserves to be) competitive.

Safety, at its basic level, is risk management. The best entrepreneurs and investors in the world, from Warren Buffett to Richard Branson, base their entire strategies on risk management. Buffet’s classic line, “Rule No. 1: never lose money; rule No. 2: don’t forget rule No. 1” speak to his aversion to loss. Branson leased airplanes for Virgin only when Boeing agreed to take them back if the business failed.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., an American food chain, was rocked two years ago with food safety (E. coli) concerns. In the following year, Chipotle would spend millions upon millions in training and new processes. Its stock did not recover, from a high of $749 in mid-2015 to a low of $400 today.

Do workers and the public deserve safety? Without question.

Is safety competitive? It better be. The costs of thinking otherwise may be too much to bear.


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