Safety is our number one priority????

We have all seen and heard countless businesses tell us one or more of the phrases below:

  • Safety is our number one priority
  • Safety is our #1 priority
  • Your safety is our top priority
  • Safety is our top priority
  • Customer safety is our priority
  • Safety is our highest priority
  • Safety First

Safety is not always first

Many of us have priorities in our employment and family life. Those priorities frequently change. The same goes for corporate priorities. Company’s need to be profitable. Stockholders want to make money, not to be product safety philanthropists. No companies exist purely to be safe.

None of us like like being constantly exposed to slogans we know are not true. Actions speak louder than words.

While boat manufactures are concerned about the safety of their employees and customers, it is not always their number one priority.

The problem, as seen below, is boat builders have to be concerned about many things at the same time.

In real life, sometimes product safety is first, but sometimes getting the truck loaded on the shipping dock is their number one priority.

The Life of a Boat Builder

Many things compete for the attention of those running even small boat building operations (manufacturing, purchased goods, payroll, sales, scheduling, safety, marketing, inventory, quality, competition, cash flow, boat shows, new product development, physical facilities, tax planing, the COVID-19 virus, employee safety, and a hundred more). Even though the control panel below looks quite complex, those running boat building operations may wish they were looking at a control panel like the one below. Things are much more uncertain running a real business than portrayed by the gauges and switches seen below. Some businesses run digital dashboards trying to portray company information in or nearly in real time, but not all variables are known quantities.

A 1970's Kennedy Space Center control panel

A 1970’s Kennedy Space Center control panel
image courtesy of Wikipedia

It is as if the true emphasis on product safety is portrayed on one of the gauges at the top of the control panel above. The emphasis on safety goes up and down as other challenges arise. At times the safety meter is pegged (maximum) while at other times it is backed off. The hope is that (1) it is up in the middle most of the time, (2) it is rarely on zero, (3) someone is at least glancing at the gauge from time to time, (4) the resources needed to quickly ramp the gauge up when crisis strikes are available, like when multiple switches start flashing in red on the panel above and alarms start to sound.

Be More Truthful

We suggest recreational marine companies stop saying safety is their top priority and find more truthful ways to verbalize their product safety efforts. By doing so they can instill a deeper appreciation of the importance of safety throughout their firm.

In recent years, Mike Rowe, of the TV series Dirty Jobs, has spoken out saying “Safety Third” as a place to begin the conversation. He calls for more reasonable safety statements and increased personal responsibility for our own safety. We and boat builders are for the last part of that statement (increased personal responsibility for our own safety) but it comes with enough caveats to someday be a post of its own.

We suggest product safety could be more appropriately addressed by boat builders as a corporate focus, value, core value, guiding principle, part of a mission statement or otherwise weaved into their company culture. If product safety was in their corporate culture AND frequently seen in the actions of the company (they walk the talk) employees would know safety was important without being daily beaten into submission by a “Safety is our number one priority” sign on the wall. The signs can still be there, they just need to portray truthful messages.

The Beginnings of a Product Safety Program

Product safety lays in the intersection of three circles (the product, the user, and the environment).

Product Safety Chart

Product Safety Chart

Yes, we recognize product safety includes non-users, passengers (they can be considered users), bystanders, those who maintain, service & store equipment (they can be considered users), and property damages. However, Product Safety is especially concerned with the intersection of whoever is using the product, the product itself, and the environment they are using the product in.

Just like many elements requiring attention by boat builder management, setting up and operating a product safety program for recreational boats or marine drives covers a lot of ground. A few elements of a product safety program are provided on our Boat Builder Safety Program page.

In Closing

We hope this post assists one of more boat manufacturers in their efforts to deliver safe products to their consumers.

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