Safety and OSHA News

Mike Rowe: ‘Safety First’ is ‘a load of unmitigated nonsense’

You know Mike Rowe, the guy on the Discovery Channel who hosts Dirty Jobs? A viewer recently called him out on not wearing the proper safety gear on his show. His response? “Of all the platitudes embraced in the workplace there is none more pervasive, erroneous, overused and dangerous than ‘Safety First!'”

The viewer posted this on

“My husband works on the oil rigs as a well tester. We watched you folks do so without any eye protection! Are you crazy? Drilling a hole with no protective eyewear? Between him, a well tester, and me, a workers’ compensation lawyer, we’re cringing! Somebody could LOSE AN EYE! Seriously — Safety First fellas!”

Rowe responded, “It is not the objective of Dirty Jobs to conform to any particular set of safety standards, other than those dictated by the people for who I happen to be working at the time. I take my cues from them.”

That was followed by the quote in the first graph of this story. Rowe called the “Safety First” slogan “a load of unmitigated nonsense.”

“In the jobs I have seen thus far, I can tell you with certainty, that safety, while always a major consideration, is never the priority,” Rowe wrote. “Never. Never, ever. Not even once.”

He goes on to say that safety is important, but not more important than getting the job done. “Making money is more important than safety — always,” he writes.

Rowe’s point: If an employer tells you safety is the most important thing, don’t believe it. He says that causes workers to become complacent and careless.

“When a business tells you that they are more concerned with your safety than anything else, beware,” Rowe says. “They are not being honest. They are hedging their own bets, and following the advice of lawyers hired to protect them from lawsuits arising from accidents.”

Rowe says he wears safety belts and motorcycle helmets not because it’s the law, but because it seems like a reasonable precaution to him and “the only one responsible for my own safety is me.”

He concludes that he probably should have been wearing safety glasses, but not because “safety is first,” but because he likes to hedge his bets.

The replies

The comments on Rowe’s website replying to his post about safety are interesting, to say the least. Here are some sample excerpts:

  • You very clearly pointed out that your employer (everyone’s employer) simply does not make our safety their priority. Thank you for that bit of truth-telling.
  • Safety is never the first priority and all these laws and rules and BS are intended to minimize statistically insignificant risk while ignoring major risk.
  • Thank you for this. I have had to fight more than one boss tooth and nail for what I (and OSHA) considered basic safety precautions. In business, business always comes first. Even an employer who likes you as a person cares more about lawsuits and their workers’ comp rates than your safety. We always say: Safety Third.
  • The further we push toward mandating safety this or that, the less people are forced to take responsibility for their own actions.

Then there was a lengthy post from “Harry,” who identified himself as a safety professional. An excerpt:

“I find your attitude ignorant and potentially dangerous … Safety is the reasonable efforts to make the risk lower … About the only thing in your rant that is true, is that everyone is responsible for their own safety … the tired and lame reasoning you spew out will continue to have good workers hurt or killed.”

Harry’s post got these responses:

  • Notice the safety professional defending his job. My own work place has two dedicated safety people, and honestly there isn’t really anything for them to do. It’s a scam.
  • Just providing gloves and eye protection to workers can be an incredible expense for a manufacturing company. If you really work in safety, you should be privy to the annual budget for safety equipment and compliance. It’s the smallest number possible because it does not contribute to the bottom line. Companies evaluate the following: Is the expense for paying a fine coupled with either a settlement or higher insurance rates if a horrible accident occurs more or less expensive than full compliance?

All this just because of a TV show.

So here are some questions for those of you engaged in keeping workers safe on the job:

  • Do you agree with Mike Rowe’s position on workplace safety?
  • What responsibility do employers have toward their workers’ safety? Is it, as Rowe says, mainly up to workers to keep themselves safe?
  • Does Rowe provide a bad example by adopting just the safety precautions that other workers do on the jobs he takes?
  • Do you believe your company when it says, “Safety First?” For most companies, is it really “Production First, Safety Third?”

As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.

Print Friendly

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest safety news and insights delivered to your inbox.


  1. The company owner who I work for does believe in “safety first”. Sure he wants production from everybody but he really does care enough for these employees to stress safety first. We are a company 70+ strong and nobody wants to see anyone seriously hurt. I know there are others (like the ones who are against safety) who could care less about their employees lives or well being because of their selfishness to just worry about themselves. Shame on them. It’s sad to say that the only way these people (not all of them) will change their mind about safety is if something were to happen to their own family member. And if it did I’m sure most of them would be the first to try to gain a monetary reward for it. And not because it would help the family in some way or another but to help themselves. Every one should always think of their fellow man, women and children first, not production. To me Rowe needs to grow up into a real man not continue to be imature.

    • Mary Hill says:

      Well said!

      • I agree with Mary Well said. But have to add…Common sense says human life is more precious than money!! When that is taken in an instant….well, all the money in the world is not going to replace what was lost in that instant for some people who may have lost an eye, an arm….etc…..Life is precious!

        • Chris Walker says:

          Safety doesn’t pay the bills and keep you employed for very long.

          • Thats why capitalism is a cancer that values cash over human life. Safety should be more important than bills but then the Cappies came in.

    • Hes not being immature. Hes being realistic. If you’ve never stepped foot on a drilling rig before you might think hes being dramatic. Theres no way to make that job safe. The BP explosion is a great example, there are too many working parts and working people for accidents NOT to happen. You just pray that it wont be you who gets hurt.

      • I am a safety professional and I have worked on drilling rigs, both offshore and inland. A majority of you major oil companies stress safety. There are many ways to make the job safe, or at least minimize and mitigate hazards to acceptable levels. It’s simply a matter of if the company is willing to spend the money to do so. ExxonMobil is a prime example of a company willing to spend the money. I have personally worked offshore jobs that had multi-million dollar safety budgets. On the other hand, I have worked with “mom and pop” companies that got pissed when I said that they were required, per regulations, to have FR clothing. There were a few that walked me off a job because I refused to back down. I would document and then contact BSEE or BOEM. The BP explosion is a poor example. There were many events caused by short cuts and complacency that lead to that catastrophe. I was on her sister rigs contracted by Chevron, Deepwater Genesis and Tahiti. Have a drink with me sometime and I’ll talk to you about it.

    • Fred, Awesome post. I want to share one more thing.

      At present, the “Safety First” slogan has become a marketing tricks rather than real safety.

      Keep up the good work…


  2. “Making money is more important than safety” ? That’s insane. If you aren’t safe you could undergo serious injury or even die. If that’s the case, the money is useless.

  3. Our professional life-blood depends upon providing service/support to our customers, which without employees to do the job we would have no customers & so the cycle continues. In today’s tight economy customers in our business select their providers based on cost obviously, but safety records, OSHA citations, EMR are also part of the equation (as it should be). Yet, Mr. Rowe spoke what he felt – thankfully he’s just an actor playing a role and nobody has to place their livelihood on his safety decisions, and that my friends is a good thing~

  4. Matthew Sorg says:

    Not all companies are the same and to generalize everyone in the same catagory is BS. The value of safety is not just for work, it applies to life as well. Mike’s attitude towards safety not only highlights a negative safety attitude for himself,but also directs employees to believe that their emploer doesn’t care about them or their safty and that it’s not important. I believe that employees need to be responsible to wear their safety gear. But as a Safety Person it’s my job to show them the value of wearing it everyday. Safety should never be considered a Priority, because priorities change daily. It has to be a core value or part of the culture, and it is important, I have never worked for an employer that wanted to see their employees get injured.
    Mike opinions are just that and opinions, and not what everyone else thinks or believes!

    • Kim Fasnacht says:

      I agree with what Matthew Sorg says.
      I am also a safety professional and it’s my job to show my people the value of making the RIGHT choice because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s the stupid RULE. Safety and compliance are not the same thing. We all get overwhelmed with certain compliance rules but safety is something that should come from within and not just be another hat someone has to put on for 8 hours a day. It should be a way of life. Safety is something we should teach our kids at all ages, starting with not carrying things up and down the bunk bed ladder. Not sticking their fingers into an electrical socket. These are not “common sense” items, they needed to be taught at least once.
      Harry the Safety Professional said “Safety is the reasonable efforts to make the risk lower” That’s it!! That is all it is; achieved in many ways.
      I am disappointed to learn Mike feels that way – that he places all companies into the same bucket that safety is just words and that he ” takes his cues” from the show he is working with. This has really changed my opinion of Mike and his percipience as a person. I gave him a lot more credit than that.

  5. Joe Safety says:

    I agree with the “Safety First” as a BAD slogan. If Safety was first, we would never get out of bed and we would still suffer from bed-sores is my saying concerning “Safety First”. And usually the guy with “Safety First” on his hard-hat gets caught doing unsafe acts. My “slogan” is “Safety, Production AND Quality” All 3 are required for any company to stay competetive. If you have 2 safety guys on your job that have nothing to do, then your either a very safe company OR one that is just “checking the safety box” (My bet is on the later). The most important thing your safety guy should be doing is making safety more personal. Example: If hearing protection isn’t being used then remind them that thier grandchildren aren’t going to waste their time if you can’t hear them. That when you get older and think about going to listen to a person to get you into heaven and you don’t go because you can’t hear the sermon. Employers want “Safety, Production & Quality”, Employees do to. Safety glasses are “the last line of defense against an eye injury”. I get upset watching TV shows that allow respirators to be worn incorrectly. Watching 9-11-2001 with nobody wearing respirators correctly and now those people have respiratory problems. That could have been prevented if thier were a few good safety guys making them wear thier respirators correctly

    • James L. Riggs says:

      I would disagree on one point. With the company I work for, they say and hold to, Safety, Quality, Production. What’s the point in making a lot of production, if the Quality is so bad you have to redo the work? However, there are the points I do agree with. What good is a safety person if they sit on their butts and don’t interact, in a friendly but authoritative way with the people in the field? Also, I disagree that safety glasses are the last line of defense against eye injuries. Proper safety glasses prevent thousands of eye injuries a year. As the hazards to eyes increase, more reliable eyewear is needed, such as faceshields, monogoggles, or something as simple as guarddogs. I am speaking for a construction point of view, not from a fireman’s view. Have a great day.

      • Good points James. Maybe Joe meant to say if you eliminate the hazard which causes the need for safety glasses, they are not required. Hard to do but eliminating the hazard should always be your first line of defense. PPE is the last resort for mitigating a hazardous conditions but with your job i.e. construction we have no other way to prevent eye injuries just like a fireman and SCBA. I too use safety quality and production as a mantra when explaining priorities.

  6. I believe I represent a large part of the working population when I say that workplace safety is just like many other issues in this country,it’s one extreme or the other,there’s no middle ground.As Americans we tend to push everything to one extreme or the other.Going overboard either behind something or completely against it.We take pertinent issues and make laws either for or against them,If these were merely suggestions on how things should be done in the workforce we would actually be able to tell which employers really cared about employee safety and which didn’t.I tend to agree with Mike Rowe to an extent but there do need to be safety guidelines in place for a company to adopt or reject.Bottom line is stupidity is not a crime and as a whole I believe the people in this country all depend on somebody else to keep them safe because it isn’t important enough for us to take that responsibillity on ourselves and do what we can to protect ourselves,but if someone else is responsible for our safety in the workplace then it becomes top priority.We hold that person or entity liable for our own stupid mistakes.

  7. While our company has a “safety first” policy I like to think of it as “safety always”. I am a safety professional. I feel it is my job to help workers consider safety as a part of each task they undertake. Being involved in some of the largest pipefitter/plumber projects in the midwest I see time and time again that profitability, as a rule, falls in line with safe projects. Projects that are well planned, properly funded and organized make money AND are safe. I can walk onto a project and in minutes tell you if the job is safe and if it has a chance to make a decent profit.

    I do think that Mike Rowe has a responsibility to take the proper precautions while working on his show. I think it sends a bad message when he does not follow proper safety precautions. I also tend to think that when I go to a job site and workers are not even wearing something as simple as safety glasses then what happens when they are confronted with an “immediately dangerous to life and health” issue? The “git er done” philosophy usually takes over and that is when serious injuries can occur. An important opportunity to send a message through a unique medium is being lost if he will not consider the ramifications of his actions. That is disappointing.

  8. Perhaps instead of “Dirty Jobs”, Mike Rowe should visit the cemeteries where workers have been buried from mine disasters, asbestos exposure, mill-work accidents, grain bin suffocations/explosions. His show is called “Dirty Jobs”, not “Dangerous Jobs”… most jobs on his show require level D protection and nothing more. Glasses and gloves – take them or leave them. I don’t see him doing jobs where welder’s face shields, lead aprons, Saranex, SCBA (or other respirators) are required. Let him start doing some “Dangerous Jobs”, and see if his opinion of “Safety First” changes.

    I used to respect the show and his opinion, but making blanket statements like his, in the market that he is in, is a discredit to the men and women who have died or have had a life-changing injury due to lapses in safety practices.

    Shame on Discovery Channel!

  9. I am a safety professional. I have seen stupid errors become major accidents because someone ignored safety. I have also seen major incidents prevented because someone had safety preventions on their side. I hate to tell Mr. Rowe, but I am sure he has someone watching over him, doing the “safety first” things, before he ever gets on the set. If he didn’t, he would have already met his maker. I’m sure that someone performs lockout when he is getting inside a piece of machinery. I am sure someone checks the atmosphere before he climbs inside a silo to work. And when he is hanging off the side of a tower, he has on his fall protection. He can say what he wants to about being safe and that it’s not important. I think he is full of himself. That type of cocky attitude will get you killed. Maybe a good obit for him would be … “He was a pioneer in proving just how important safety should be”.

  10. John Malaby says:

    Safety should not be looked at as a priority. Safety must be a core value! Priorities change, values do not. You must incorporate safety into your workplace. Companies are in business to make money and that is not a bad thing. If you have workers getting hurt your company will not be able to stay in business long… So, Mike is right about two things, “Safety First” is not the priority and “the only one responsible for my own safety is me.”

  11. Mike Rowe is a TV personality, what he says is meaningless; it’s like when The Dixie Chicks talk politics. . . Who cares? Every business person worth anything knows that WC is a profit center and safety programs are the cornerstone for any good WC program. Spending money on gloves, eyewear or any other PPE is a lot less expensive than paying for years of medical treatment. The less you spend on WC the higher your profit margin; bottom line. We can all argue whether or not our company’s care about us, but truly at the end of the day we all have shareholders or stakeholders to answer to; if the profit margin is not effected by the costs of workplace injuries then that means our employees are safe and the shareholders are happy.

  12. Kevin Morgano says:

    I am the Assistant Production Manager, Shipping Manager, and Safety Director of a corrugated packaging company and I must say that not only are you responsible for your own safety, you are also responsible for youe co-worker’s safety as well.

    OSHA establised its regulations, often to the extent of ridiculousness (just read about the chain across dock openings), and they strive for safety by mandate while the most common casues of accidents is a momentary lapse in judgement and even the smartest people on the face of this planet are capable of moments of incredible stupidity and all the mirrors, lights, gloves, alarms, hardhats, harnesses, and steel toed shoes are not going to matter very much when one of those moments arise.

    It is all about minimizing risk, but the bottom line of it is “be aware of what you are doing and be aware of what might be done to you!”

  13. For 35 years I have worked in the industrial electrical field service across North America. Like Mike Rowe I have been in just about every industrial work setting. As HV specialists we get the dangerous work as the employer & their employees do not want the risk, and honestly your first mistake is likely your last. For 23 years I have been involved with training personnel in maintenance, general safety and more specifically high voltage safety. From my observations I believe safety is only as good as the person who has to practise it. It is each individual’s attitude that makes the difference. It is personal diligence to take the time (safety precautions) to do it right every time. That is very much a personal challenge for everyone. I go through that every time I have to put on a Category 4 electrical blast suit I hate it, but it is better than an ambulance ride to the burn ward or a ride in a hearse. Mike Rowe may be right when he says much of safety is lip service. However safety programs are necessary to make people aware of safety needs and to remind them. People always think that they know better, but they do not, injury statistics bare that out. All the employer has to provide a safe work environment (OSHA).

  14. We have too much $$$$ invested in our firefighters equipment and training to think employees are expendable. One gets hurt and instantly there will be someone else to take their place. Skilled employees have more value than taking a position on a production floor.

  15. John Schwelm says:

    This topic should be a bit fun…

    I can recall the episode and it was not recent. I want to say it was first shown at least 18 months ago (2010??) I saw it and was somewhat numbed, like the first and only time I saw that ax men show.

    Mr. Rowe has an amazing following with his show and really could project it in a more interesting and educational way other than playing the bumbling but endearing guy.

    He should be equipped with all the correct knowledge of the particular industry to include the proper OSHA required PPE whether his handlers give it to him or not. Being the executive producer I suspect not many tell him what to wear or do.

    Imagine the presenter, already knowing the business he is visiting better than the industry rep! That would be interesting to me. Mr. Rowe should be presented with the DAILY industry death count in the USA. It would likely change his uneducated view pertaining to Safety. It’s unfortunate that folks like him are oblivious to how quick an injury can occur. Years ago my favorite rocker Ted Nugent who crashed and burned in popularity went on to try radio, then ended up on TV with his successful hunting show.

    Are you all aware during filming and while operating a chainsaw he damn near cut off his left leg with it. He was not wearing any protective cut proof leggings. It was a terrible incident.

    Portraying various industries and/or living on a ranch makes not an Industry spokesperson or Rancher. Personal Safety should always be a personal value. No one can make him wear anything but then when an eye is lost there should be no grieving or uproar for them except us telling him, “told you so’!

    Nobody benefits by him wearing any safety apparel except him. If he is looking to attract the demographic that is populated with ill informed, uneducated, blue collar workers who think ‘Safety First’ is a waste of time then I am out and no longer a fan of the show. As a Corporate Safety Director I cannot deal with Dumb…

    • Gregory Hannigan says:

      Safety is a waste of time and money. As Rowe stated, you just do not want to be sued. So if I sign a waiver, get it notarized that should be that. Listen if your job is to perform a duty, then perform the duty whether it’s safe or not, period, That’s what you are paid to do. Now if you don’t want to do that Duty then you can quit your job and they can pay somebody else to do it, it’s really that simple. Safety is nothing more than a reason for people to get out of doing work that they’re supposed to do. I mean if you want to get into the semantics of the issue safety is part of the reason why people are becoming less intelligent. Why does everything have to have a warning there should be common sense and if you don’t have the common sense died from whatever you did. Safety is also leading to the overpopulation of the planet which is leading to people starving, salmon disease because people are not dying at the rate they should. I work for General Motors and let me tell you right now I have been in more safety disciplinary meeting then you can imagine and for some reason I still have a job, you want to know why that is?because I get the job done that I get paid to do regardless. So you’re saying you want us to be safe so you don’t get sued for a million dollars? Okay well what about all the times I have skipped around safety and save the company a million dollars? The company are going to say we don’t care about the money you’ve saved us from bypassing safety. Okay then it should not bother you for me to get hurt and see you for a million dollars either then since money is not the issue! Ahhhh, now you see! Catch 22!! Then the safety people usually start stammering over themselves because they don’t know how to respond! To win an argument or a debate you do not have to be right or correct. All you have to do is prove that they are not right and you have won!

  16. If an employer truly says “business first”, then surely he/she knows that unsafe business practices will cost WAY more to their bottom line than just about anything else. Sure, there are plenty of employers out there that do not put safety first, but those are usually the ones with the highest turnover, the highest worker’s comp and disability costs and the most OSHA citations (which of course costs even more money and results in bad publicity and bad reputation for the company).

  17. Darn right I have primary responsibility for my own safety. Being alert and responsible is the first, best line of defense. I think we’re also responsible for making others aware of potential hazards– practically applied, hazard awareness training is a legitimate process objective that can enhance productivity.

    Unfortunately, it appears that many ‘safety professionals’ live in some nanny Utopian cul-de-sac rather than the real world– an alternative reality where everyone is responsible for the actions of everyone else. In other words, the non-productive leach-world of banks, litigators, and insurance companies.

  18. I too agree that the slogan “Safety First” is a cliche that often times is overused and has no meaning to people as it has become as much a part of the landscape of a manufacturing environment as a forklift horn. I am a safety professional for a large manufacturing facility in Illinois who does not believe in “Safety First.” However, with that said, I believe 100% in the safety and health of my employees being just as important as any other facet of the business. I have long believed that all facets of a business environment have to work hand in hand. Safety, Efficiency, Delivery, and Quality have to be so connected with each other that none of them can succeed without the other. That is why I NEVER say “Safety First.” They are all equally important to the success of the business. Mike Rowe is correct in his thinking that if a company truly believes that safety is first will not succeed. I often tell people that your Safety is as important to this company and myself as quality, efficiency, and delivery. No more, and certainly No LESS. If my factory was manufacturing “Safety,” we would be no more than a cornfield. Likewise, if my manufacturing facility was producing with no regard to Safety at all, we too would be nothing more than a cornfield.

  19. You can’t make money if you spend it all on injuries!! This is where Mike’s ignorance really shows. I beg to differ, there are several employers who truelly do care about the safety of their workers. It is a win, win situation when everyone goes home without injuries.

    As far as everyone being responsible for their own safety, unfortunately we live in a sue happy society and the Worker’s Compensation system NEVER makes the employee responsible for their own safety!!!! I wish they did, and until THAT is fixed, every employer has to strive to make the workplace safe!!!!!

  20. I find it frightening to know there are people with such public visibility who make careless comments like Mr. Rowe’s. Our company has worked hard and long to change our culture to one that realizes we all need to work constantly and with a safe attitude. People will only be safe when we all come to that realization. A comment like this takes us backwards 10 years.

  21. Robert Lugenbeal says:

    As a former OSHA Industrial Hygienist, current E, H,and S professional and Chief Medical Officer, I agree with Mr. Rowe that many companies’ “Safety First” motto is not true. It sounds good but simply does not get the attention to be truly meaningful. There are also many companies that do rank safety near the top of their “mission statements”, but are usually those companies that have the means to do so. I disagree in that safety does not affect the bottom line. For many self insured companies, medical costs from work related accidents comes off the top and affects the P&L, in addition to decreased morale and employee production in companies which have perceived hazardous working conditions. The safety professional is always trying to “eliminate” hazards, not just make sure that employees are wearing proper PPE. It is true that wearing PPE is not the goal in safety, it is eliminating the hazard through engineering controls. PPE is the last defense in protecting workers. Most accidents do not happen as a result of employee carelessness. They result in a lack of training, understanding, engineering and administrative controls and we need dedicated professionals to make sure that those factors are being pursued. Mr. Rowe’s comments about himself being responsible for his own safety is true, we all need to be held accountable for our own actions, but even the most cautious person can get hurt in an unsafe environment.

  22. In many cases safety is better for the bottom line anyway, especially when considering PPE. We provide cut resistant gloves for our staff of 50+ at approximately $5 per pair, it costs less to provide these for two years, than one emergency room visit for a cut finger. At $2 per pair and a much longer life, safety glasses are even more cost effective. Even the higher priced items like harnesses and lanyards for those working at heights easily are less costly than the injury they would prevent.

  23. As is usually the case, “experts” try to paint an issue with a broad brush and generalize an issue to the point of it being irrelevant. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the companies that Mike Rowe works with do indeed claim to put “Safety First”, yet give production priority when faced with the choice of safety or output. These are smaller, family-operated companies that may not have the background or expertise to develop a true safety culture. However, we all know that there are a number of companies out there that would indeed shut down a production line to correct a condition or issue deemed to be unsafe. In my opinion, many companies don’t learn the true value of safety until tragedy strikes. I am also starting to believe after 10 years in the safety business that this is true of many, if not most, people.

    • I completely agree. More often organizations whether private or public entity arrive at a need for safety only after some egregious safety event has occurred or OSHA has cited them. Its incredibly reactive. They don’t quite grasp how much of a gamble that they take.

      • Mike is correct. If you’ve ever worked a lousy job around equipment you know that “safety first” is a great idea but doesn’t get the job done. I had a job in a factory where you had to get metal cans out of the mechanism as it was stamping them out and made an error. They provided us with bulky safety gloves and a hook to extract the metal if it held up the assembly line. You couldn’t work effectively with the safety equipment, and taking 3 or 4 minutes to clear a jam held up the assembly line. . The employees found that the only way to get metal out of the cans was to use bare hands. It was easy that way. All you had to do was grab the cans before the stamping mechanism came down every 2 seconds. I never saw any accidents, and only held the job for a short time, but I’m still looking around for guys with missing hands.

  24. I am facilities management and safety professional and I partly agree with Mike on this one. I believe safety should not be treated as a “priority” but a value and this is not just a manner of semantics. Priorities change depending on the need. Values do not. Our management uses the phrase “safety first” frequently but I think it is misguided. If safety were truly first, we would not be in manufacturing. There are too many risks involved. The goal of every for profit business is to make… (drum roll please) a profit. Our management team truly does not want anyone to get hurt but they also realize that it is cost effective to protect their employees so it is my job to asses the risks, inform management on the appropriate laws, introduce policy, and audit for safety.
    Mike is partly correct that “safety is my responsibility” but corporations are also responsible for informing their associates of the risks involved, setting ‘reasonable’ guidelines of protection that at least meet OSHA requirements, and then enforcing those guidelines. As far as personal responsibility, I want every associate to go beyond policy, learn to assess each situation, and then think and act safely. At that point safety has become a value rather than a priority.

  25. Wow. Unfortunately in many cases Mr. Rowe is right. It is up to true safety professionals to aid in changing this culture. Good safe work practices show in company profits. Many do not believe that. I do wish that Mr. Rowe would have expressed some sort of appreciation towards the fan that cares about his safety and well being more than he does. Then again should he become injured on camera, he ratings are sure to skyrocket. Have a safe and productive day all.

  26. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But what a shame that this Mike Rowe is so ignorant. I’m not a safety professional so I am “not defending my job”. I’m defending my fellow workers. I want them to leave in the afternoon just as healthy as they came in through the gate in the morning. Safety is not 2nd or 3rd where I work–IT’S FIRST!!! First and foremost! Our director would not hesitate to chew your butt out–or fire it–on site if he saw you not working safely. You don’t work safely, you risk getting seriously hurt–or killed. What good does that do a company? You have an injured worker out so others have to step to do his/her job. This creates havoc in the minds and actions of employees; some get ticked because they have to do more and not get paid for it, etc.; the company’s WC insurance goes up, there could be a possible OSHA fine for negligence; it goes on & on. It’s a pyramid effect…everything keeps working up to the point that someone gets killed. Why would a company want that??

  27. I am a full time safety professional, and the only people providing me job security and protecting my job are people like Mike Rowe and the other posters here. You folks create the need for my job, thank you.
    I agree with Mike that safety is not the number one priority, making a profit safely is the number one priority. Companies cannot make a profit by getting people hurt. There is nothing shameful or evil about wanting and needing profit. But ask BP if by passing some safety rules and regulations is cheaper than full compliance.
    Good sound business, a profitable business is a safe business, as well as an ethical business. I find it sad we have to force people to look out for their own safety. And I don’t care if the owners push safety to make a profit or from just personal concern for their employees. Either way it pays off for the employees and for the business many times over.

  28. Working 13 years in the field of Environmental Health and Safety, I feel what Mike said in his response rings very true in the industry for most companies, not the very successful ones, but most of them. This is a business culture that every safety professional wrestles with throughout their career. Shortcuts are taken and safety procedures are circumvented to get the job done on time or meet quotas. After all, companies are in business to create products or services, not to develop safety procedures or provide a safe place to work. This is always the case until management realizes that injury costs (direct and hidden) and workers compensation premiums have a huge effect on the bottom line, or production rates dip because employees are frequently being injured and morale suffers because nobody seems to care. Or even worse, a serious injury or fatality occurs costing thousands, if not millions, in court costs, insurance premium hikes, regulatory costs, etc.; then miraculously it’s “safety first”. Notice that none of the “dirtiest jobs” performed by Mike Roe were filmed at the Pfizer, Ford, GM, Dow, DuPont, or Johnson & Johnson’s of the industry.

  29. I am an HR Professional and have been a Safety Advisor for over 15 years. While I do agree with safety being an individual responsibility, I also feel that your company is responsible for the education and supply of PPE that are required for your job. Beyond that, there really isn’t much control unless you stand around and watch each and every employee for every hour they work to be sure they are complying with safety rules and regulations. Safety measures are in place to protect workers, but most definitely to protect the company as a top priority. No employer wants to pay out thousands and thousands of dollars for unsafe practices for some idiot that likes to juggle his blow torch. If you don’t have these guidelines in place, even if the employee doesn’t take their own safety seriously, you stand to lose a lot…including the employee.

  30. Brian W. Kunkle says:

    In any field of endeavor, unmitigated nonsense comes from individuals who are too lazy or too weak in people skills to go out and find the best way, the best tools, the best PPE, and the best leaders for the processes. High-performing companies have high-performing people, production processes, product quality, customer service, and yes, a high-performing safety culture.

  31. Jason Grunow says:

    At a company I used to work for a .15 reduction in the EMR in an 18 month span saved the company of 200 employees $420K in annual WC premiums. The owners son told me smart companies don’t hire smart safety people because they interfere with production. If the PPE is comfortable the employees will steal it to use at home and we will have to buy more.

  32. Safety First? We decided to take all of our “Safety First” signs out of the plant. Our company motto has changed from “Safety First” to safety is equal to production, morale, cost, and quality. Lets be honest with ourselves. The goal of a company is to make money. How do we make money? Treating safety, quality, morale, cost and production equally. Most companies put production ahead of quality and safety, yet tell the employees that safety is their number one goal.

    Now don’t get me wrong. Your personal safety should be always be a top priority for you.

  33. I think we need a compromise. Safety should come first but we should be able to rely on common sense (eye glasses Mike!!). Since we know that won’t always happen (Mike), if OSHA wasn’t throwing so many extraneous expenses at companies, I think bosses might be more willing to make sure the basics are taken care of. I was at a company where the safety manager was casual with the guys and they listened to him about basic safety. The company I am with now is literally choking their workers with safety this safety that – trying to keep up with OSHA -, to the point that as soon as the bosses back is turned, things get thrown out of sight and the workers don’t listen when they are given all these “safety first” lectures.

  34. Mike, with both of us sharing the last name, “ROWE” I can’t belive the stance you take on SAFETY. Safety WORKS, I have been a safety professional for about 10 years now and our company has had ZERO accidents for 8 of those. Come on Mike, get with the SAFETY PROGRAM, It works, companies make money, and employees go home to thier families every night

  35. Let’s be perfectly clear about what would be safest for the employee: Not working. A worker involved in a job, including desk jobs, has the potential for injury. If safety really were first, any risky or potentially risky job would just not get done. Clearly this is reasonable in the real working world. Safety is not, nor can ever be, first. However safety should be a high priority and built into the plan and execution of the job. As a safety professional involved in a business that is intending to make money, it is important that I make wise and pragmatic decisions, understanding how safety affects the bottom line. A good safety record and healthy employees are good for business. The employees know the company is concerned with their well being and are generally compliant with safety rules and reporting issues and incidents. As a result of improving safety at our facility, the company has saved eight percent on its insurance premium this year. That more than pays for the investments in safety the company has made.

  36. I am one of those “business owners” who you are criticizing by saying we try minimize safety expenditures. I think a lot of people are crazy if they think (at least in a company our size-under 20 people) that a company doesn’t want to keep its employees safe. If you have lots of injuries, then you have down time, you have other employees who start being unproductive either becuase they are demoralized because they have seen their fellow co-workers injured, or maybe they are unproductive because they are scared themselves. We had a serious injury at our factory recently-the employee was at fault-but we had done our best to train against what occured. Which doesn’t mean we didn’t go back and re-evaluate our safety program, and we uncovered other areas of risk. And YES, we used a safety consultant. And he helped lots. Safety has to come first-without it. If you work unsafe YOU WILL NOT achieve productivity goals-not long term anyway.

  37. The truth is that almost EVERY company wants the job done as top priority and safety is a close SECOND… Otherwise putting safety first would cause the cost to do the job to far exceed the acceptable area to do business.

  38. After reading more on Mr. Rowes’ comments, maybe Safety Third is not a bad idea. How many times during you day do you see “Safety First?” I think if we began to put in place Safety Third” it would give workers something else to think about.

  39. He talks about the bottom line is to “make money”. What good does making money do for the company if they have to pay it out in comp claims or death benefits. Let’s not forget all the fines they face as well. We have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to make sure we all go home with all our parts. It took a long time to progress to where we are today, only to have a “celebrity” screw it up. The company I work for really does care about safety, and I am glad they do.

  40. Ask Massey Energy how that money first, safety second thing is working.

  41. First of all he is an entertainer and probably does whatever he is instructed to do as far as safety goes while he is doing his work.

    Second, anyone who thinks safety is not or should not be first has not had to call an employees family member to let them know that there loved one has been injured on the job and is seeking medical attention.

  42. Safety is a state of mind. If it is not ingrained from day one on the job it won’t make any difference. You can coach an employee all you want to wear safety gear, that won’t make them do it until they either get fired or hurt. Unfortunately, it is like raising children. You do your best to give them the tools to get through life, but you can’t force them to use them.

  43. In a previous yard remodeling TV show I saw a worker being transported on the ball of a demolition equipment -I guess safety does not apply when you are having fun in front of TV cameras, and then brag about it (like Rowe) giving the impression that he is immune to danger.

    I am proud to say I work for a company that goes out of it’s way to ensure safety for all of it’s employees -the ones at offices and those involved in production. By being compliant in this matter, I am sure we have prevented many injuries or deaths and still manage to stay a float in this economy.

    Nevertheless, just by reading related safety cases in this site I have to agree with Rowe to some extent: many companies don’t care, others can’t afford it, it’s expensive and yes all of us are responsible for our own safety. Are his comments helpful? I think they rather undermine the importance of safety in the workplace.

    I know the level of safety it’s not the same in all places but I’ll have to say that some safety is better that no safety at all; Take advantage of what you have and if anything please don’t follow Rowe’s example.

  44. This is quite ironic, from what I know of Ford, they place a very high priority on Safety and ergonomics.
    I’m sure they will be please to hear your comments Mike.

  45. It’s disappointing when someone in a position like Mr. Rowe’s takes such a cavalier attitude toward such an important issue. Many people tend to (unwisely) place great weight on the opinions of the famous, and such statements can undermine much of what the safety programs and professionals have accomplished. Too bad.

  46. Fully agree with Mike’s comment that “Safety first” as a rule is not true. It is a “flavor of the day” for a business to say “Safety First”. It is first only at that time. When another issue pops up it is first. After 30 years in EHS and seeing various management styles, truly progressive systems do not have “Safety First”. They have “Safety Equal”. Those companies that put employee safety as an equal business requirement to production, schedule, quality, etc. are the ones that succeed in EHS. Employer’s have some responsibility for employee safety from a moral and financial obligation. Unfortunately as Mike stated financial helps drive the culture from injury and insurance costs. Poor EMR ratings can cost a company business opportunity. Mike Rowe’s position on safety represents some companies, but not all. I go back to my original comment of “Safety Equal”. Many of the companies with that attitude succeed in all aspects of their business and are respected. As far as Mike’s example of bad practices, I can only comment then to not watch his show. People watch his show to see the odd and dangerous jobs. He and his crew are not there to train the companies he visits, although he is responsible for his and his crews safety. If his crew pointed out the safety issues, he would not be welcome at places. I am sure there are places where he even refused the work.

  47. On the PPE issue, maybe Mr. Rowe should become more of a safety example for folks in the work place that he has the privilege of working beside. I have watched the show on a frequent basis and it kills me to see how lax some of the people are when it comes to safety. As a safety professional, you can only do so much when it comes to wearing proper PPE. Safety responsibility for wearing PPE lies solely on the individual performing the work. It is the companies responsibility to train the members on the importance and reasoning for wearing the PPE, but the company cannot constantly baby sit adults in the work place to make sure they are complying with the rules. If an individual takes it upon themself to disregard their training and instruction then that is their choice and ultimate fault. If the company is not performing their due diligence in properly identifying and training members on PPE then it is shame on that company. Common sense goes a long way in the work place…too bad it is not used as much as it should be.

  48. I think part of Mike’s point is being missed. Having been an HR guy, and for some reason in charge of safety, at several companies in my career, I have to agree with him. Companies always say, “safety First,” but they really don’t mean it. That’s Mike’s point. Don’t count on your company to tell you how to be safe; instead, use the tools provided and your own good sense to be safe.

  49. bill the boss says:

    half of the comments miss the point rowe is making. i have worked for both types of companies. in the oilfield, the companies i worked for were production first companies. they already paid wokmans comp and insurance so what is the difference? if they didnt have production they couldnt pay the premiums. i had a great driller who believed safe work practices were more important than the gear we wore. 8 years later i had all fingers, toes and both eyes. i worked the other extreme with every ppe the job required, sfaety men and osha on the job, and there were more stupid preventable injuries than imaginable. mike rowe is not responsible to tell us how to work. he is an entertainer and that is it. i enjoy his show and laugh a lot. i do not watch it to get safety lessons. i now make sure my underlings (lol) have every safety piece they need or ask for, but i stress even more safe work practices, and in 5 years my crew has ZERO LTA. and in summation, he is right, in the real world safety takes a back seat to the almighty dollar. my opinion its not his job to change that its yours and ours.

  50. Seems a lot of posters want to make Mike Rowe into some sort of safety crusader.

    Mike needs no defense from me, but take a moment to consider his role on Dirty Jobs–

    Mike Rowe is essentially a REPORTER (or perhaps Gonzo Journalist Ala Hunter Thompson).
    He experiences REAL job-site conditions first hand, and conveys them to his audience.
    Beyond the desire to share the experience, he is not a crusader for work-place issues or policies of any variety, except perhaps for the promotion of work in general (see

    Those who follow the show will recall that Mike has suffered numerous injuries, bouts of sickness and exhaustion on his various jobs, and that he always follows the PPE and safety rules of the subject work-place. Not to do so would be DISHONEST, violating the fundamental premise of the show.

    Of course, plenty of you ninny-nannies would like to make Mike Rowe into a blathering mouthpiece for your socialist philosophy of ‘bubble world,’ where no one is permitted any non-state-approved risk and must travel about in protective well-cushioned (and properly ventilated) spheres. Ain’t gonna happen.

  51. Safety Cindy says:

    As a safety person I agree that all we can do is try to get employees to follow the safety rules. In the end they are responsible for their own sfety. That being said, an employer also has a responsiblity as well to keep their employees safe. Occupational injuries hurt the company and the employee. The lost time, the retraining of employees, emotional and physical well being of the employee that is hurt and those who may have seen the incident. I think of those that can no longer support their families due to an incident whether they have died, lost a limb or have an occupational disease. It takes a toll on the family dynamics. Yes, safety is first but it starts by making everyone accountible including those on tv shows. They need to be shown doing it right. I guess I won’t be watching Mike Riwe any more.

  52. #1 Safety – without a good program you will not get or retain a skilled work force.
    #2 Quality – without good quality you not have repeat business from your customer base.
    #3 Productivity – if you dont make $$ you can’t expand and create more business to keep people employeed

  53. Mike points are very clear and not very deep…to summarize: I do what I want to do in front of everybody and I don’t care because there are others that don’t either. Amazing: 2 wrongs make a right -according to Rowe’s critical thinking.

    I guess a lot of us involved in manufacturing and safety can’t read or interpret the deep thoughts of Mike Rowe’s comments and have missed the point.

  54. I am a saftey professional for all you people who say safety is first you are wrong. saftey production and quality are equal if you make a good product on time but get some one hurt you fail. you make good product , hurt no one but not on time you fail. youget product out on time and no one gets hurt but it is poor quality you fail. they are all equal for those of you who say diffent i can come to your plant and prove it in less then a day.

  55. Carl Conley says:

    Rowe’s response was typical of someone that doesn’t have all the facts. First things like safety glasses cost less than $5 each. The cost of any minor eye injury is several hundred dollars plus the indirect cost of lost productivity and time taken to handle the claim. To believe that injury prevention doesn’t contribute to the bottom line is just wrong. Even for a small company that’s 100% insured just minor frequency issues can greatly increase an e-mod. So let’s say a small company has a frequency issue and an e-mod of 1.2 and his competitor down the road has controlled is losses by putting a priority on safety and has an e-mod of .8. Now let’s assume a base premium of $100,000 for each employer. This will give the first employer a $120,000 premium and his competitor an $80,000 or a $40,000 operating advantage. Did Rowe say profit first? And how effective are those OSHA safety standards ? Well OSHA has been around for only 40yrs. In that time the injury rate in the US has dropped in half and at the same time the US work force has nearly doubled indicating about a 75% reduction in overall injury rate. Now consider the amount medical cost in the US have gone up in the last couple of decades then look at how much regular medical insurance has gone up to cover those increase. Then compare the increase employers pay in medical insurance because of these increases to the rate changes in WC cost. This is a clear indication that OSHA’s implementation of safety standards is putting trillions of dollars in the pockets of employer’s pockets, at least the ones that comply. And for those of you that say, wait my WC premium has gone way up, you also don’t understand how WC works. Perhaps you increased payroll or your e-mod has gone up or you’ve added other class codes, but overall increases base rates for WC have been well less than those of medical insurance. And if it were not for controlling losses rate would be going up just like medical insurance. Rowe was right…

  56. Scott, you may be right about him wearing all the proper PPE with the jobs he presents on TV. I haven’t seen every episode because frankly I have other things better to do. But he needs not to open his big mouth with negative comments such as this. He should keep his opinions to himself. I’m sure teenagers watch this show also and you know how they are. They will pick up this attitude about
    safety not being important and apply it to their own lives. Why? Because a celeberty states safety is not important or the first priority. It doesn’t only apply to the work place.

  57. I think redefining how we use the term “safety first” is critical to understanding why a company would try to sell such a phrase as a motto to do business by. Mike Rowe is correct in stating that safety is not the first and foremost priority or value in any company… equal maybe, but not truly FIRST. However, a company that does not drive its employees to THINK about safety first before performing any task is setting themselves up for failure. That is what “safety first” means in the company that I work for.
    If we, as safety professionals, do not do everything in our power to instill that thought process into our employees, we can forget about production. There will not be safe, healthy employees in place to do the job.

  58. Although, Mr. Rowe is some what correct in his analogy of some companies but there are companies that believe safety is good business. Safety is good business, it pays off in several areas, I’ll mention just a few, retention of your most valuable assets(you’re employees), lower workers comp. insurance permium, getting additional work from customer that require exceptional safety programs(as in construction) and keeping state and federal agencies at bay. Mr. Rowe may not think he has an obligation to his viewers but he really does, he needs to leads by example, but maybe he is old school and down right doesn’t give a damn!

  59. Mike Rowe has a great following of his TV show. If he could put a brief clip of going over the safety precautions for each show he is doing, it would send a great message that safety is a priority, instead of just glossing it over. By him doing that and it saved just one life or prevented a person from a serious injury, it would be well worth it. He has a chance to present a positive role model for workers, not matter what “dirty job” they are doing.

  60. So Mike, when the day comes that you do get seriously hurt, you aren’t going to get a lawyer or ask for workers comp since it wasn’t the companies fault you weren’t following common safety procedures, right?

  61. I disagree that Safety isn’t the number one priority at a lot of work sites. I do agree however that there are a number of corporations and Corporate folks that are more focused on numbers and will do everything in their power to keep employees from filing claims when they get injured and are still rewarding people for having no accidents.

    It is sad that this happens even after Dr. Michaels and Federal OSHA have a national emphasis program about under reporting injuries and Dr. Michaels has stated the Federal OSHA dissaproves of programs that reward people for not having accidents and has said the Federal OSHA will not tolerate these types of negative incentives.

    I would also note that if Mr. Rowe is wearing the same protective gear as the employees, the employer is a fault, not Mr. Rowe.

  62. Wonder if Mike Rowe’s attitude would be different if one of his kids was killed while working? Especially when it was 100% preventible and due to complete negligence on the part of the company? Fourteen to sixteen workers die in this country per day! As family members cry through their grief I guarantee they wish safety had been more important. I’m curious to know how many who agree with Rowe has actually had one of their family members die on the job in an incident that could have been prevented if the company gave a damn about the worker more than their wallet! Its easy to talk until you’ve been on the other side. I know a company owner who was “one of those” who cared more about the job – until his brother in law died a preventable death. His tone changed pretty quick, and he admits he was wrong.
    You all think what you will. To some I’d say, you can’t change stupid. But to the others, maybe you should think about the people who have to live a life without their loved one and ask yourself how you would feel if it happened to your family.

  63. Mike makes it sound as if the two are mutually exclusive. They’re not. You can do a job safely, and be profitable as well. It is moronic to suggest otherwise.

  64. This seems to be quite common on these “reality” shows. I can’t count the number of times I have watched American Chopper and seem them drilling, welding, grinding, etc… with no PPE on. Apparantly the OSHA regs and laws only apply to certain people!

  65. This rant is irresponsible IMO. Tell the families of those killed on the job, or have been injured such that they can never work again that safety is not important. Each of us IS responsible for our own safety, but sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Not knowing the hazards one faces or not caring enough to be safe is a constant battle for safety professionals, and while I’m not personally for Big Brother stepping in, there’s plenty of evidence since 1970 that OSHA and other regulations have had a huge impact.

  66. WARNING: I would make sure that Mike Rowe does not show up on your company door step with the sole intent to put PRODUCTION of his TV show ahead of the SAFETY of your employees. Complete disregard for the effort put forth into creating a safety culture.

  67. Andy Martin says:

    Mike dropped the ball this time. It’s been said very well in the blogs that proceed my comments, safety is not just a “nicety”; safety is an essential in determining the bottom line. His inflammatory comments would most likely appeal to the immature, but not to any responsible and/or successful business owner. I enjoy your program Mike but don’t ask me to hang my hat on your business advice.

  68. Based on some of the foregoing commentary, many posters have neither carefully read the initial story, nor have ever watched the TV show in question. That’s the only way to explain the mistaken beliefs that 1) Mike Rowe opposes safety, 2) that Dirty Jobs does not show, in detail, the safety equipment and procedures in use on each job site, and 3), that the production crew can or does force the subject companies to change equipment or procedures to accommodate ‘good’ TV. If anything, corporate nature suggests that it’s more likely that more unsafe behavior occurs when cameras are not present…

    If you disapprove of the work environments shown on Dirty Jobs, then I’m afraid your problem is more with the reality of the work environments shown than with Mike Rowe’s attitude or opinions about safety. In any case, it is wrong for you to insist that Dirty Jobs should present a dishonest portrayal of the work, merely for the sake of safety propaganda.

  69. i think mike makes a valid point….not that the employer doest find safety a priority, but that the employees dont. we spend THOUSANDS on PPE. Bottom line is…. stupidity is not a crime and as a whole I believe the people in this country all depend on somebody else to keep them safe no matter how much training and awarenes you provide…you have to protect them from themselves.

  70. Ken Higgins says:

    Wow, this was a disappointing diatribe from someone who is so visible and so influential. Great catlyst for the follow-up comments, though. There are a lot of really good comments that show that this is a challenge that gets to the very core of workplace safety. Like many of you, I agree that “Safety First” is a pointless safety motto (well, for anyone not working with IDLH chemicals/atmosphers, high voltage, or explosives, anyway). Mr. Rowe certainly reflects a common workplace attitude, that safety pros are a waste of space that simply dream up pointless requirements that get in the way of “getting the real work done.” I was a cabinetmaker for 23 years before I went into safety 15 years ago, and the idea that someone – anyone – so out there in the public eye would launch such a diatribe against something as simple and undemanding of effort as being asked to simply set a responsible example by wearing safety glasses while operating a cutting power tool is mind boggling. But he’s not alone. How often do you see a guard in place on Norm Abram’s table saw when he’s simply ripping a board?

    One last comment. I genuinely care about protecting my coworkers safety and health on the job. One of my grandfathers died of black lung, the other of silicosis; I’ve had part of a lung removed myself because of workplace exposures in my youth. I’ve had two close friends die on the job. But the job of a safety professional isn’t a purely humanitarian activity, it’s a business function with humanitarian components. It is in fact also a very valid part our job to protect our employer from civil and criminal liability, fines, lawyers, juries, judges, medical expenses, bad press, and the prolonged decrease in morale and productivity that occurs after someone is killed or seriously injured in a workplace. And yes, sometimes that involves protecting the employees from themselves. Any employee who thinks those efforts are a ridiculous waste of time – or downright…

  71. For companies Safety is first because incidents, accidents and injuries cost money. Poor safety ratings/numbers prevent some companies from competing for certain work. So if you want to say production is first, well one cannot have production if the employees are getting injured and away from work. If the business states that making money is first, well one cannot make money if the employees are getting injured and out of work. Safety is in the company’s best interest as injuries cost money. Is Safety first? Put it where you want but without it we all lose. Those who get injured are many times the first to run and file a law suit stating the employer did not enforce the safety rules and/or requirements. Yes the individual should be and is responsible for their personal safety. History has proven that legal filings follow individual’s stupidity. Mr. Rowe who are you going to blame when you get injured during a filming and can’t work any longer? I would bet your lawyers would be lining up to sue anyone and everyone for lost wages.

  72. Ken Higgins says:

    evil, as some have expressed – is simply revealing that they are looking at the whole thing emotionally, as in, “Don’t tell me how to do my job!” instead of logically.

  73. Tom Bochart says:

    Safety First (Interseting). A worker (any person) is and should be resonsible for thier personal safety. Where do they place safety in their personal list of priorities first, second, third, etc. obviously Rowe doesn’t place it on top or he would evaluate the danger to himself before he puts his body at risk, then take the proper precautions, not just follow the leader. More of the Blame Game.

    I agree that the term Safety First has and is misused. It will continue to be misused and made a sham especially when those do not walk the walk, they just like to talk.

    Why do we wear safety glasses, gloves, boots, etc? – to protect our eyes, hands, feet, etc….
    Who told us to? It should be you, yourself, you again. Take responsibility for your destiny!!!!!!!!
    So do you have to make Safety First, No you just need to make Safety Happen!!!!

  74. I can’t deny that Mike’s perspective on safety as well as others has made me think about an issue I personally have to deal with in a daily basis since I work in manufacturing being involved in the production process and safety training.
    As a result, we are passing up a questionnaire, including Rowe’s comments and some of the other posts to check what our people (at all levels) think in this matter.
    Discussions like this stir up critical thinking among workers, business owners and safety professionals -which is great. I am sure Mike Rowe’s position as an entertainer can help companies like mine be as productive as they are safe, whether by agreeing or disagreeing. There is always room for change, specially when comments like his make so many people angry!!!

  75. Before the current and ever-increasing OSHA regulations, we changed sawblades without lockout/tagout. We have ripsaws, jumpsaws, multi-trim saws, radial arm saws, chamfer machine, bangsaw, bandsaw, and strippers. Guess how many injuries we had in the 12 years I’ve been here? After many of the additional guards and policys were put in, our injuries increased because rather than having safe behaviours, people (and especially Americans, God bless us) stop worrying about it themselves and expect to be protected by others/guards. I believe Mark’s point was NOT that we shouldn’t have safety programs, and NOT that we shouldn’t try to make things safe, but WAS that by trying to make everything stupid proof, we make stupid the norm and accidents increase. He never said “I don’t ever wear safety gear”. He simply pointed out that, and I quote:
    “Rowe says he wears safety belts and motorcycle helmets not because it’s the law, but because it seems like a reasonable precaution to him and “the only one responsible for my own safety is me.”

    He concludes that he probably should have been wearing safety glasses, but not because “safety is first,” but because he likes to hedge his bets.” End quote

    Notice that (especially here) the only people saying “I believe Safety First” and “Yes it is” and “Safety is priority one” are the people who’s jobs are safety or people who have lost loved ones to it and want to blame the tragedy, not on an individual’s choice, but rather on a company WHO CAN”T FORCE ANYONE TO DO ANYTHING AGAINST THERE WILL. Safety is a personal choice, and a life attitude. Just like car seat belts. You can make them. And you can make laws requiring people wear them. But you’ll still get sued by the idiot that doesn’t conform.

  76. Unfortunately, there is truth in what Mike has stated. I have worked for large and small companies where the “Safety First” slogan is pure whitewash. Yes, most want people to be safe but do not want to commit resources – training, safety gear, warnings and warning signs, etc. – to the effort. Several companies only get on the “Safety First” bandwagon after an safety-related incident has occurred. Employess responsible for identifying safety issues to management are generally met with a reluctance of management to react because of the interference in regular business activities. Whereas I agree that each employee is responsible for his own safety, many employees are clueless as to what the necessary actions are to adequately prevent injury or accident unless management has taken the time to train the workforce. Again, training takes away from production and that factor deminishes the bottom line. And don’t forget the issues of fear of management in not reacting properly to an unsafe condition!

  77. Bill Kincaid says:

    Having investigated many fatalities, and helped companies engage safety processes saving them millions of dollars, I disagree with the flippantly expressed notion that no companies put safety first. It is an overused expression, agreed. I prefer to say safety is just one of our many important priorities, but is unique in that it should never be second in importance.

    Injuries are a form of waste. Especially in the 21st Century, no company can afford to ignore a major waste stream and dump all responsibility for controlling it on workers. But then again, Mike Rowe is merely a basic cable tv “personality”, and not much of one at that. What does he know about anything?

  78. Mr. Kin, You seem to be blaming your own company management for injuries because they had installed machine guards on the woodcutting equipment while they are trying to have a safe work envirment and keep their employees safe. Why don’t you tell them that yourself instead of hiding behind this post. Also, with you being in favor about people being responsible for their own actions, if those guards were not in place and you cut your hand off, your telling us that you would blame only yourself, not use the companies insurance because it’s your own fault, and not try for WC because it’s your own fault?
    Be honest now. Maybe you should put that in writing and have it in your file incase something were to happen.

  79. Funny that OSHA laid charges when a certain mining tv show had some safety lapses. Maybe OSHA needs to review these as well. Maybe a few well placed inspectors can change his idea.

  80. When it comes to people being responsible for themselves thats fine out of the workplace. But if you are at work that does not apply. You are to be following your company’s instuction/policy whether you feel like it or not, or find employment elsewhere. Your company doesn’y provide PPE just for the heck of it.

  81. Mr. Rowe has taken the approach that it will never happen to me, I am doing what the other guys are doing. Sad to say that this is a common mindset. Once an accident starts to unfold, it is too late to stop and put on safety glasses or hard-hats etc. If you watch his show on a regular basis it is easy to see that safety is not a top priority to him or his producers. The bottom line is selling the show to the viewers.

  82. After reading this article and the comments posted about it (basically trashing safety), I am both surprised and offended. Of course we all know that a company’s main objective is production, you’re in business to make parts. Without making parts the place closes the doors. But a company must also make a commitment to provide a safe workplace. Let it be understood that if you can’t make a product safely than you didn’t make a good part. A company truly needs to do is instill safety into each employee, they must make a full commitment to make the workplace safer, listen to safety concerns and correct them, spend necessary monies to engineer fixes and not just rely on overbearing PPE to protect workers. The last thing is to worry about compliance with OSHA or any other governing agencies. Yes, without compliance you risk penalties, but if your first concern is compliance, you will fail to create the culture that encourages safety and communication about safety. Employees will not be engaged in the program. Safety needs to be both proactive and positive. After a company does its part, it is up to “The Employees” to make it their responsibility to make safety first. After all, they need to make the commitment to their self and their family to go home each day.

    The comment about a safety professional basically being a figurehead is ridiculous, although it can and does happen in some companies. Companies that do not communicate safety at all levels seem to fail to make safety a main priority, but that doesn’t mean that that can’t change. What people need to understand about a safety professional is that they are more of a coach, a trainer, and a resource, than they are a worker. Without a knowledgeable safety professional; who would have the experience, the resources, the knowledge and the attitude to make the appropriate recommendations? Who would provide adequate protection and training to employees? It can’t be done but just saying wear safety…

  83. Planning, training and engineering that accounts for human and environmental hazards results in a safe and efficient working environment. Why break out ‘safety’ from the overall process? Clearly, to enrich and empower those individuals, companies and government agencies that literally make a living from safety. Let’s just call those folks ‘Big Safety.’

    That is the underlying motivation for ‘Safety First,’ the big push by Big Safety to maximize earnings and regulatory prowess through government fiat, supported by propaganda and various useful idiots. Come to think of it, Big Safety is really no different from Big anything else, in its desire to maximize profits by ‘encouraging’ the market to buy its products. Just listen to OSHA say: “That’s a really nice business you got there. Be a shame if something happened to it…” Lie a 100k fine for setting up a crane with an unbarricaded swing-arm radius? Sounds a lot like the old ‘protection’ business, eh?

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that certain individuals in the safety profession contribute very little to their respective organizations in terms of morale, productivity, or even safety for that matter. But they fit right in in the C suite– this is to be expected in a society where pushing piles of paper about and playing with other people’s money is considered a good day’s work.

    And why the fear mongering and personal attacks in these posts? It’s hardly good style for posts to a public forum, especially from so-called professionals. But I suppose it’s also to be expected when one’s ox is being gored.

    And so back to the original subject: If you don’t like the work environments shown on Dirty Jobs, don’t blame the host or producers– they take ’em as they find ’em. Perhaps you’re more concerned with the show’s overall (and accurate) impression that the Big Safety First Push appears largely irrelevant to the real world. After all, the potential loss of true…

  84. This is very disappointing to me. The over-generalization and stereotyping by Mr Rowe and others who have responded in support of him is very disturbing to me. Yes, I’m a Safety Professional, but believe me I’m not all that desperate to protect my job because with my education I can always do something else. I started in the safety field about 4 years ago and I think it’s a very rewarding field to work in or I wouldn’t be doing it.
    I recently gave a presentation to our employees about the construction of the stadium for The Commonwealth Games in India. In the 3 years they constructed that stadium over 2 dozen people were killed on-site due to industrial accidents. That’s just the number of people that the companies admitted were killed. Others put the number much higher. The descriptions of the working conditions- Workers issued hard hats but had no shoes, no respirators, children running and playing throughout the site alongside workers because the whole family worked there and no one was available to sit them.
    That’s the culture that puts production and profit over safety. That was America a hundred years ago. That’s not who we are now, no matter what stereotypes Mr Rowe or others think. But there are plenty of other places in the world where people can be free to choose if they want to wear PPE or not, I’m just glad that I’m not there.

  85. It could be that the true Safety as a Core Value companies would never let an untrained worker off the street come in and perform tasks at their facility knowing he would only be there 1 day. Our company requires new hires to observe for an entire week, and then they can only shadow and must be supervised for the first 30 days. No way we would allow Rove in for 1 day and allow him to do jobs that we don’t allow our own employees to do on their first day. Just saying….

    I believe safety is a core value for every person. It’s just a question of perspective.
    If you asked all General Manager/President/CEO types if they would knowingly ask someone to perform a task knowing they would get hurt, I bet you the answer would almost be 100% no. To me that speaks that safety is a value. The rest is all about acceptable risk, which does vary depending on the circumstances. This is where people cite the “Safety as a priority not a value” issue.

    I say safety is a priority as well as a value. We lower the priority of safety all the time, it doesn’t mean it is any less important. Do we require pre-job planning and briefing for filing paperwork in a filing cabinet? No, it is a relative low-risk event. Does that mean that we don’t value the safety of office workers?

    Higher risk = higher priority. Lower risk = lower priority.

  86. Well, I am not a safety professional, nor do I represent the Big Safety group stated above, I am just a data entry employee who works in manufacturing and to some degree in safety.

    We usually work with operators with very little education; some of them can barely read or write. I am sure they will not be posting their opinions in any forums.

    I do agree that PPE is our last resort and our duty is to minimize risk by other means as much as we can. Personally, I have seen many positive changes in the safety culture in the company I work for through training, engineering, administration and of course PPE. We do all we can do and then add common sense to the equation. Why the time and expense? yes to comply and I would like to think we care.
    What does a guy who barely reads knows about silicosis? or his right to know? or PEL? Just the fact that we take the time teach and provide PPE makes me sleep better.
    I was not born and raise in this country and for the majority of comments here and in Mike Rowe’s site (I read them too) it seems safety has done very little for the labor force and average citizen of this country.
    Safety First, Second, Third, Equal? I have thought about it lately and come to the conclusion that it all boils to our individual core values and the fact that this is America (reiterated numerous times in this forum) were money, profits and bottom lines will in many cases take precedent over someones limbs, life or personal tragedy.
    When I see the safety conditions around the world under which our fellow men have to work compared with the ones in this country, I see the mismanagement, abuse and lack of appreciation for the safety benefits at our disposal.
    What is a pair of safety glasses to Mike Rowe? nothing. What is a hard hat or steel toes or gloves to many of us? an aggravation. Maybe we should collect them all and send them to 3rd world countries were they have little to no protection by any agency, where there is no PPE and the only…

  87. J. S. Bonnell says:

    I have a hard time putting any stock in the safety opinions of a man who wears his 3M 8511 disposable respirator upside down. Watch for the Dirty Jobs episode at the terra cotta plant.

  88. To J.S.Bonnell,
    You should have written your comment yesterday and save us all a lot of time and frustration. Thanks any way, maybe we can put this thing to rest for a while. 🙂

  89. Bill Kincaid says:

    “Dirty Jobs” is not an accurate view of industry in this country. It is not a documentary or a news show. It’s merely a form of “reality television” – which uses sensationalism and artifical drama to lure viewers.

    And Mike Rowe is to “Dirty Jobs” what Snooki is to “Jersey Shore”. His producer seeks exceptionally awful workplaces where safety is secondary. This helps create a false sense of risk – certainly they aren’t going to let Snooki hurt herself on the job, they just want you to think she will.

    Working at a place where the management has the sense to require safe work wouldn’t be as entertaining.

    Not to say that “Dirty Jobs” is entertaining. I’ve never watched it all the way through because I found it rather dull.

  90. Mr. Rowe obviously has never worked in Mining….
    Without a high regard for safety by yourself and your employer your TV show could have a short run time.

    Keep thinking that Mike, your positive outlook for the health and safety of America’s workforce is noteworthy, although not admirable.

  91. I haven’t cut off any limbs yet, nor been electricuted, nor been stabbed or shot: Because I choose to act intelligently. Not because of guarding policy. Not because of rules policies. Not because of LO/TO policies. Not because of the law. But because I choose to act on what I believe are intelligent courses of action. I have seen people who follow only the rules get hurt because they don’t understand the necessity of acting intelligently, people who believe rather that they are well within their rights to be injured because they can choose not to do what most rational thinking people would naturally do for self preservation. Of course, I’m not indestructible so when my co-worker dropped a 6″x6″x20′ we were moving on my foot and broke said foot, I indeed did NOT claim comp. I man’d up and dealt with it. When my co-worker smacked my finger with a board and broke said finger, I splinted it with 2 bic pens and was back at my station in minutes, NO COMP ATTEMPT. When I obtained tendonitis, which I still have, I continued to work through fiery strings of shooting pain, no attempt at WC. I put on a wrist brace and kept working. So no, I can’t say what I would do if through my own foolish behaviour I cause an actual loss of one of my limbs, but I can say I’m not a comp case in the 14 years I’ve been in construction and manufacturing. And I can stick to my guns that people are responsible for their own actions, and for what they are willing to put up with around them, and it is not always the workplaces fault nor should it necessarily fall to employers to reward stupidity with free money. No amount of guarding, laws, or slogans will eliminate foolish choices, weak resolve, and peoples love of (in many cases) easy money.

    Nobody has to agree with me, nor take my whole statement into consideration, all of us are free to pick and choose what we want to believe. Because we really are such a wonderful and safety propagating nation of workplaces, we do group…

  92. Bill Kincaid says:

    All this rugged self-determination is quite manly, but in the real world, unless the employer manages safety just like they manage productivity and quality, there will be a lot of costly accidents. You can’t just expect people to work safely without guidance, even if they know what the risks are. Humans have an innate talent for accepting risk if it helps accomplish a goal.

    Example: In the 1970’s, the smoking rate in Missouri was about 24% of the population. The government enacted a tough program labelling ads and tobacco packs with strong hazard warnings. 40 years later, everyone knows the dangers of smoking. The smoking rate in Missouri today is now about 25%.

    I work in workers compensation insurance. There are companies that cut their costs by literally MILLIONS of dollars merely by recognizing that most employees take the lead from their (appropriately titled) leaders, and adjusting their emphasis on safety accordingly.

    For example, one client had many accidents each year and five fatalities in a row, each one just some poor employee doing exactly what their supervisor told them to do. After taking charge of safety, they no longer have had any deaths in years and also have cut their formerly massive insurance costs by two thirds.

    Common sense alone would be a wonderful thing, if only it weren’t so uncommonly found. Ignoring the need to lead in safety is a luxuriously expensive mistake.

  93. I agree with Mike .I was a Environmental Health and safety officer and I left the profession because no one took safety seriously . Exposure rates,the correct ppe,and medical evaluations are not important until
    OSHA shows up at your door or someone gets hurt or sick .I could not in good conscience ask workers to do a job I did not feel safe doing .

  94. Col. Jimm says:

    Folks the old Colonel has been plugging away in the safety business for over 30 years and one thing I have learned for sure is when you behave in an unsafe manner you place yourself and others around you at risk. You do not have that right under any circumstances what so ever! You do have the moral obligation to be safe whether at work or play. Being safe is not the law, it is your responsibility. Second, there is no such thing as “Common Sense.” All you know at birth is being warm and having a full tummy are good, everything else you must learn, everything. You will learn to behave in an unsafe manner if it is taught to you by word or example. Finally, the decision to behave in an unsafe manner is a choice and society has a moral obligation to hold you accountable when your unsafe behavior results in a loss. Folks these are more than simple thoughts, these are facts and they are not in dispute.

  95. Craig, Being a Mike Rowe follower or believer is your choice but “because no one takes safety seriously” as you put it, doesn’t mean it isn’t

  96. Willy, I know very little of mike rowe. and I use the same training and schooling I receved at work and school at my home .My wife and children know about lo/to,tripping hazzards the proper ppe to use for what piece of equipment we have we even have an emergency action plan! I never said safety was not important to me or the job ,but if you think the bottom line does’nt come first…

  97. Mike likely made his comments based on his perspective. When I watch the show, I see overlooked hazards, insufficient PPE, and other safety issues. Based on what I see when I watch the show, I can understand his perpective.

    However, there are no shows on the Discovery Channel showing the safest work places in America. No shows that video teams of employees who work hard to make their work place a safe as possible. And, no shows demonstrating how unsafe places become safer places to work. I’d like to hear Mike’s comments after he spent years visiting dozens of these work place.

  98. I agree completely with Mike – “Safety is my Goal” is BS – if not then will you work for free – you said safety is your goal…

    If you don’t understand the risk of working with power tools without eye protection shame on you. You work for yourself to take care of you family and if you are blind it’s going to be tough getting a job.

    2 x 4 (lumber) is now 1 1/2 by 3 1/2 which makes your home 28 percent weaker because people were to dumb and didn’t wear gloves while handling rough cut lumber.

    It’s no different than health care – health care is really injury and illness care – health care is eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, not smoking …

    Now we have the green and environmental thing going – plastic is a big problem particularly water , soda/soft drink bottles and plastic bags – all recyclable but a lot of people just don’t care – so many products would be cheaper – Trek (synthetic decking) if recycling was more common.

    We have become a society of bed wetters

  99. Greg Smith says:

    Mike Rowe probably never owned his own business or had to manage a group of people doing real work Never had to deal with an employee losing his/her life or having a life altering accident or had to deal with the employee responsible for that happenstance.

    Clearly he has lived a sheltered life away from real work where real accidents do happen.

  100. There are so many responses to this article and I just don’t have the time to read all those posted, so I hope I don’t repeat another’s response. This isn’t the only TV broadcast where a featured person/event doesn’t meet required safety standards; Orange County Cycles, Undercover Boss, Ax Men, and so on. The biggest surprise to me is that OSHA has missed the boat on addressing some of the more serious safety gaps that have been shown to the nation.

  101. I both agree and disagree with Mr. Rowe’s comments. As an independent Safety/Compliance Consultant for the commercial transportation industry I can state that all of my clients believe in the “Safety-First” motto. They do this not out of some altruistic belief in the sanctity of life, but because it is good business and, in the long run, can save them thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

    Do all of the customers I have encountered over the twenty-two years I have been in business share this belief? No, of course not. But, in the past, when I have identified a company who is trying to use me as a “rubber stamp” to show they do agree with and enforce safety regulations when the really don’t, I have immediately terminated my contract with them. Even, though it always hurts to lose the revenue.

    One of the few advantages of being in business for yourself is having the ability to say “I don’t want to do business with you anymore” and then walk away.

  102. Years ago I saw a guy get wrapped around the PTO driving a big auger, and while he was in the hospital for 6 months afterward, (lucky to be alive really, though he was permanently disabled), I know he wished that the company had taken that “Safety First”, and machine guarding, and corporate commitment, and all that a little more seriously. Didn’t do much for the bottom line either.

  103. I agree with mike.I have roughnecked on drilling rigs for the last 7 years and if it wasn’t for incompitent people in the work place we wouldn’t have near as many,if any incidents.Sure,there’s always a risk,but a little bit of common sense goes a very long way in the oil field.Actually,the reason why most safety men push for safety and make it mandatory to turn in a set number of near hits/misses each tour is because their bonuses depend on it.Most company owners don’t care about it.They only really care about their money.They would rather pay a lawyer and spend a few bucks on a safety program to “educate” someone that should really just be flipping burgers for a living so they dont end up with a huge lawsuit when someone put their hands where they shouldn’t have.Think about it like this,do we really need a warning sticker on a lawn mower saying that we shouldn’t put our hands in the mower while it’s on?it’s those idiots that cause the rest of us to suffer over laws enforced by osha,niosh,etc..Bleeding heart liberals will be the end of us all.

  104. oh,and one more thing,all incidents can be avoided.personal protection equipment is always the last line of defense.incidents as stated in the dictionary are random acts of all seriousness,96% of all incidents in the work place can be avoided because they are contributed to human error in one way or another.if a machine goes down and an injury occurs,it was the emplyee’s responsibility to check it and properly maintain it at the beginning of each shift.if properly maintained,it would have been known before hand that it was not running at 100% because of low oil levels,lack of grease,wear patterns,etc..if it is a slip,trip or fall hazard,it is the employee’s responsibility to keep a clean and organized work area and walk ways.if there is a hose laying in a walk way and you are carrying a heavy box,why not take the extra 5 seconds to move the hose and then procede?

  105. It seems to me that the term “safety first” is often misconstrued. Of course, the business and the work of running the business comes first and is the priority. However, promoting an atmosphere and an attitude in the midst of the business is where “safety first” comes in. When we come up against an unsafe situation or there are potential hazards, “safety first” means the empoyee can immediately recognize these and that the management will NOT push the employee to do something that he/she feels is unsafe. Other safer methods of getting the job done are then found, but the show must go on and the job completed. So “safety first” doesn’t mean that everyone runs around practicing safety and oh, by the way, we should work some too. It just means that completing the job safely comes before completing the job.

  106. Perhaps “safety always” would be more appropriate than “safety first?”

  107. Doc Bruce says:

    The term “Safety First” is wrong because if we safety things to a point where we cannot function, then we don’t have jobs. Safety is an integral part of every operation. However, that does not excuse the arrogant comments by Mr. Rowe. If he came into any of my sites and did not follow safety procedures, his arrogant butt would be out the door. If nothing else, he needs to be in compliance and set the example since he is being seen by millions. By saying he does not wear safety equipment and feels it to be unsafe to wear it is an excuse for his ignorance. All of my fellow safety professionals that have seen his antics are very quick to blame the safety managers at the sites for not enforcing compliance. This is just another example of thinking he is exempt and others in awe of his Hollywood status. And watch the lawsuit he throws out if he gets hurt on the show. I have no respect for his actions, and his comments make him appear even more ignorant.

  108. Safety Cindy says:

    James, even if you have all those warnings on mowers and snow blowers, people still put their hands in places they do not belong because they have done it before without consequences to their actions. All it takes is once. I have a family member who lost part of his foot when he was a child because he was not taught to stay away from mowers. This winter, there have been a number of people who have always cleared out their snow blowers with their hands who are now missing fingers. Safety isn’t just about work, it is about life. When someone in your family comes down with an occupation disease because their employer did not think safety is important, you start to think otherwise. An employer is just as responsible as the employee to keep everyone safe.

  109. David, Doc Bruce and Safety Cindy are all right!

    Safety always – a safety culture – but we as parents, spouses, employees and citizens have to be accountable for our own actions. Two of my great uncles stuck their hands in harvesters in Iowa and both last part of their arm and one hand. You have to create a safety culture and you have to enforce your own rules. Compare it to telling your children that Santa Claus is NOT coming if you don’t stare behaving – BIGGEST LIE IN THE WORLD – he always came. I have played “expert witness” at many trials involving OSHA cases or lawsuits and if you don’t prove that you are enforcing your own safety program you will hang yourself … the age old saying that a safety manual can save you or hang you prevails.

  110. There is an episode in which Mike states that the only times he has gotten hurt is when he made the mistake of thinking someone had more of an interest in his well being than him. He’s not saying he doesn’t care if people are safe or not. He’s simply saying that no one, not even the best and most caring safety professional, will care as much as you do about your own fingers, limbs, eyes, etc.

    I am in the safety field, and making sure everyone goes home the same way they came in to work is my job. Hammering out product and making the company money is their job. It’s really that simple. I make machines and equipment as fool-proof as possible to engineer out problems in the first place. To me, there is almost too much emphasis on PPE. PPE is the LAST line of protection, not the first! You engineer problems out first, because it’s way more reliable than counting on each employee to use PPE properly every time.

    I absolutely agree that there are companies out there that simply don’t care. For the most part though, no one wants to see somebody get hurt to make a few extra bucks. The bottom line IS important however, because otherwise there will be no company to be safe working for. I spend a lot of time and effort keeping people safe because it’s important to my company, but the reality is that one of the main reasons it’s important to my company are to keep costs down so we can all keep working. Our WC premiums are $25-30K per year less than most similar companies in our industry, and it gives us a bit of a pricing edge when bidding on jobs.

  111. Mike Rowe says:

    Mike Rowe here, Dirty Jobs, etc. Just wanted to hop in a say how gratified I am by this conversation, and thank whoever got it started.

    The main objective of Safety Third (a special that first aired on Discovery back in 2008,) was to promote a national dialogue by challenging some of the platitudes and dogma that surround this topic. Happily, that goal continues to be realized. My assertions around Safety Third and many subsequent conversations have generated a huge response in a variety of places, and resulted in what I hope will be a heightened level of awareness among workers in dangerous environments. Thanks for being a part of that.

    My intention – obvious I think to anyone who reads through all the material – is not to encourage unsafe behavior. That would be, well….insane. Safety Third is an attempt to foster a different kind of conversation by challenging those people who would accept the notion that their safety is someone else’s priority. From what I’ve seen, there is no greater cause of accidents – with the possible exception of bad luck and stupidity – than complacency. (I say this from firsthand experience.) Sure, Safety Third sounds subversive and politically incorrect. It’s supposed to. Conversations like this don’t happen when some smart-aleck with a TV show says “Hey everybody – Don’t forget…Safety First!” They only occur when the status quo is challenged. And I believe that companies who proclaim that my safety is more important to them than it is to me, ought to be challenged.

    Safety First has certainly saved lives. But it’s not a perfect or complete philosophy. Mandatory meetings and compulsory check lists eventually become rote, and result in a series of consequences that are both unintended and counter-intuitive. There is room for improvement. And whatever improvements might occur, they will almost certainly evolve from a healthy debate about the nature of risk, the hazards of complacency, and the role of personal…

    • Hi Mike, I’m so glad you touched on this area of absurdity. I’m a welder first, construction worker second. Every job I go into I have to take a safety class/ Orientation. It has become MIND NUMBING. IT’S NOT ENOUGH THAT I HAVE AN OSHA 30 card? Come on! What’s the point on taking an OSHA 30 class, just to have to turn around and sit through ANOTHER ORIENTATION SAFETY CLASS? I fear the insurance companies are making our lives miserable for reason, but what ever happened to COMMON FECKIN SENSE?

  112. Thanks for responding yourself Mike.

  113. Doc Bruce says:

    Mike, sorry for being the Devil’s Advocate here, but closing the barn door after the horse has left is no good at all. You are a national figure for multiple products, and for you and your crew to not set the example makes you as much a hypocrite as anyone. If you knew you were in violation of safety standards and were being watched by workers who think you a role model, then many of us who work hard to change their safety culture lose to Holywood again. On top of workers thinking it is cool because you didn’t wear safety equipment or follow safety procedures, you have alerted agencies like OSHA to companies that are not in compliance.

    Safety should never be First or Third, it should be an integral part of every process. Your best defense of your inappropriate comments would be to set the example. Just think of who might work another day or not suffer an injury or worse if they saw you in compliance and practicing safety. One of my counterparts was a safety person in “the industry” and when the economic crunch came along he was let go. His main job was to ensure the safety of people like you and to consult so that shows would not portray a negative safety role. That is just another indication how much Hollywood really cares about safety.

    Top of the list of unsafe behavior is the commercials for Claritin where the stome mason chips away and is covered with dust, a health hazard, but with Claritin he can breathe the dust better into his lungs. You show is in the top 5 in my book. Get it together and set the example. If Safety Third is so high on your response and has been around since 2008, what is your excuse for your shows in times beyond that? Very weak response.

  114. Excellent response Mike. I love the idea of challenging the status quo. It’s what we need.

  115. I find it very interesting how everyone is so quick to jump down his throat, but they’ve completely missed the point, not to mention the fact they seem to have forgotten he’s worked over 200 jobs and talked to numerous people over the years. It’s about taking personal responsibility for yourself and your own safety rather than depending entirely on your employers or OSHA to provide that safety for you. Of course employers have a responsibility to protect their employees, and I don’t think Mike has ever disputed that fact, but I think people do become complacent when they don’t take responsibility for their own actions and decisions, and that is more dangerous than not following the guidelines on a poster board in the breakroom. Especially when a job can change in an instant and you have to adapt or adjust to get it accomplished. People also have to be able to decide how they can safely, but also effectively, get the job done in order to produce results. Have any of these people even watched an episode of DJ? I’d like to hear some responses to these comments from the people featured on the show who don’t necessarily follow the “rules.” Mule loggers anyone? What would those men have to say about “Safety First/Safety Third?” Also, what about our soldiers? What would happen if they put their safety ahead of a job or mission? They must simply act. Also, if we were concerned with safety being our number one priority, would any of us drive a car or fly on an airplane? There is always going to be risk but that can’t stop us or scare us from doing what we need to do.

  116. I’m sorry, Doc, but if Mike Rowe and crew are safety role models for ANY company then that company has bigger problems than not using the Safety First posters. It’s not high school. If workers aren’t wearing their safety equipment because the cool kids aren’t then there’s nothing Mike Rowe or anyone else can say to fix that problem – you could glue a safety first sticker to their foreheads and it wouldn’t help.

    You yourself in your second paragraph state that safety is not first or third, so basically you are saying the same thing as Mike. Safety isn’t first, it is integral to the process. It is not more important than quality and production, nor is it less important.

  117. Doc Bruce, What is wrong with OSHA being alerted about companies not in compliance? Is your company one of them?

  118. Doc Bruce says:

    Red, I don’t use the term “Accident” anymore because the generation of today doesn’t understand the impact of the word since they grew up with parenting that was quick to say if they did anything, “Don’t worry, it is just an accident”. Just last week we had to kick a subcontractor off site because all his guys showed up with inadequate footwear, because another company had allowed them to do so. One of the subs working on a roof argued with me about wearing fall protection, the supervisor pointing out other subs and certain TV personnel not wearing PFAS and not having a problem. In their case it was either they comply or they don’t work on my site. Two days later at another site not under my watch a 31 year old man stepped off a four story roof to his death.

    I could go one with so many examples we would lose the intent. Mike is not representing any company, he is sending a very poor message that we in the field have to deal with. To infer I am saying the same thing as Mike is so far off-base. If any of our Site Supers or Project Managers go into the workplace to enforce safety without being in compliance themselves, they will be lucky if they remain in the company. Unlike Mike, they set the example, not use the excuse he did of following what the company workers do.

    This has nothing to do with where you place safety or what company you are visiting, or if there is a safety sign posted, it has all to do with setting the right example. I took a Troup of Boy Scouts into a woodworking shop and while there the Planer jammed. The operatror stuck his hand in to clear it and lost the tip of his finger, blood all over the place. The boys learned well from that. Just think how well they are learning from an International figure who does not take his personal safety seriously.

    My predecessor at one job I had overseas had the worst safety record imaginable and we had less than 5% of the employees wearing seat belts. A short time after I took over…

  119. Doc Bruce says:

    Willy, just a comment. With an EMR of 0.64 and only one Recordable in 5 years, we are not a target, it was just a comment. LOL

  120. Dear Mr. Rowe
    For some reason, I doubt the truthfulness of your main objective in questioning the validity of the safety efforts of many, but no doubt, the discussion has been good and after all has been said and done –at least for us, the safety of our workers will continue to be a mayor concern –not only a slogan, despite yours and others opinions.
    Thanks for addressing this community; as you can see by the poll we are a die hard safety first bunch; quality can be fix, production recover and plants re-open, not the same for limbs and lives –at least in my book of ethics.
    You take care and wish you remain in one piece for years to come despite yourself, -Dirty Jobs is too much fun and honestly, I can’t see your fans much into opera singing.

  121. Mr. Mike Rowe:

    It took a great deal of time and patience to put together the 6 part series “Inspector America” that premiered on the History Channel in the spring 2011. It took a year to film, edit and produce 6-one hour episodes.
    I have been in the construction business for more than 35 years – mostly in bridge and infrastructure construction. In my career I have investigated hundreds of construction fatalities and thousands of construction injuries. While the slogan “Safety First” is not at all one of my favorites, the experience “in the field” of working requires safe actions and conduct be involved in all areas of life…..or there will be is suffering and death.
    I acknowledge that I have not always followed every GUIDELINE – mostly due to my own unintentional actions and conduct. It does take time to manage the risks associated with employment duties, but that extra time may be rewarded with a long and health lifetime.
    As I said, I am not fond of “safety first” or the phrase “follow the safety rules”. I prefer advising workers to be aware of and follow the “GUIDELINES FOR SELF PRESERVATION”.
    I do not have any commentary on the quality of Dirty Jobs as a television series, I have seen so many times where you either have not been instructed, were not aware or you did not follow adequate GUIDELINES FOR YOUR OWN SELF PRESERVATION.
    You’ve climbed into confined spaces without training or awareness of the risks, operated tools without the needed personal protective equipment and you’ve been very lucky that you have not sustained a serious injury during your TV career. I don’t want your luck to run out because America enjoys watching you “get dirty”. America would not enjoy watching you get bloody or “get dead”.
    Please Mike, you and the Discovery Channel are successful enough to hire a seasoned and sensible individual to establish your GUIDELINES FOR SELF PRESERVATION while you continue doing DIRTY JOBS.
    Decades of…

  122. You can’t teach stupid. And is just what Mike Rowe is portraying! He just doesn’t get it and we safety trained folks should pay little attention to his ramblings.
    I am an unfortunate Supervisor that suffered a fatal accident at an emergency water repair in the middle of the night, soley because of the lack of proper safety precautions and Personal Protective Equipment – even though SAFETY training dictated to apply both. I’ve also been the Head Pipelayer in 22ft+ trenches. I would never allow myself or anyone else to undertake a job like that without all the safety measures applicable in place!
    What Mike is teaching those that watch his show (and I would guess there’s a lot fewer since his lame statement) undermines but a tiny bit of the safety culture this country has tried so hard to establish in the work place. It is because of people JUST LIKE HIM that we safety minded folks haven’t been 100% successful, and we should be – people don’t take safety serious until they get hurt for not following safety standards that have demonstrated over decades, can keep a person safe on the job, or even at home. We don’t want to get in trouble, so we use the PPE? No, we use it because it just may save one of only two eyes; one of only two hands; one of only ONE LIFE!
    Yes, as one person put it, Mike is a TV personality, pay no heed to the uneducated who place no value on sensibility. He’s out for the money his show awards him, not the accolades he might get for demonstrating proper safety.
    And once the show gets canceled, he’ll be looking for a job. Who’s going to hire this guy who pays little heed to not only the laws, but to simple measures to protect ourselves from harm. Workers Comp claims after hiring him? You bet! OSHA fines from his attitude? You better believe it! Injury or death? Very likely!

  123. Dave in Calif says:

    Whatever the company is manufacturing i.e. making money is first. So where DOES safety come in? It comes into EVERYTHING that is planned to make the company’s bottom line, dollars (put in whatever you call your currency), safety permeates all, so it is NOT first, nor second, nor third.

    Like this “Mission first, Safety Always” and plan accordingly…

    This is my humble opinion of course 🙂


  124. Ken Smith says:

    Safety is, and will always be, a compromise with Production. Not a compromise where one is less improtant than the other but one of intelligent approach. It is impossible to have perfection in ethier Safety or Production. However the challenge is not to try to find some perfect balance between the two, but to find the appropriate balance using known risk factors to achieve the highest level of safety possible. In simple terms . . . if a particular procedure would (100% Certain) result in a death, would you do it? Oh course not. But if that same procedure’s risk factors can be mitigated by 90% by the proper use of guards, PPE, training, etc. would you do it? Dependent on production requirements . . the answer is Yes! Everything we do in life can cause injury or death, work place safety is a slightly different animal. Liabilities, OSHA Standards, Workers Comp are all legitimate factors that have to be taken into consideration in regards to a companys profit margins. It’s not pretty but it is the truth, and the question will always remain as to where a company draws the line between Safety and Profit and if that line is in the appropriate place.

    It’s NOT about Production !
    It’s NOT about Safety !
    It’s NOT about Quality !

    It’s about Production DONE Safely that results in Quality.

  125. Dave in Calif says:

    Well said Ken, well said.

  126. Jimmy Otero says:

    “Making money comes first.” MIT did a study on why NASA lost its two shuttles. It concluded that safety had been subordinated to the point that is was no longer effective. Managers and supervisors were making the “safety” decisions, and were allowing the “mission” to take priority. As a consequence, we lost lives, shuttles, millions of dollars, and severely impacted the NASA program for years to come. Making money comes first only Let’s not forget, most of the OSHA rules have been written in blood.
    I wonder how much money a company makes when it has to shut down its production line to rescue an employee who got covered in a trench, asphyxiated in a grain silo, smashed by a forklift, trapped in an autoclave, dismembered in an assembly line, or electrocuted installing new wiring? Witnesses to the mishaps are treated for shock and sent home. Then the OSHA violations begin. Since you already said that money comes first, not safety, then “willful” will be added and your fines will be high. You will be on probation for three years, and related violations during this period will result in repeat violations. Your worker compensation insurance continues to climb until you are on “assigned Risk” and have to get state insurance. Your Experience Modifier Rate (EMR) increases, automatically disqualifying you from bidding on certain jobs and contracts. People who say that safety never comes first clearly don’t get it.
    I often wonder how so many TV and movie shows display people violating serious safety concerns like fall prevention, improper ladder climbing, safety glasses, or hearing protection without OSHA getting involved. Maybe if more people wrote in to OSHA or to some of the networks, some of this “in your face” mentality would change.

  127. Jimmy Otero says:

    “Making money comes first” MIT did a study on why NASA lost its two shuttles. It concluded that safety had been subordinated to the point that it was no longer effective. Managers and supervisors were making the “safety” decisions, and were allowing the “mission” to take priority. As a consequence, we lost lives, shuttles, millions of dollars, and severely impacted the NASA program for years to come. Making money comes first? Let’s not forget, most of the OSHA rules have been written in blood.
    I wonder how much money a company makes when it has to shut down its production line to rescue an employee who got covered in a trench, asphyxiated in a grain silo, smashed by a forklift, trapped in an autoclave, dismembered in an assembly line, or electrocuted installing new wiring? Witnesses to the mishaps are treated for shock and sent home. Then the OSHA violations begin. Since you already said that money comes first, not safety, then “willful” will be added and your fines will be high. You will be on probation for three years, and related violations during this period will result in repeat violations. Your worker compensation insurance continues to climb until you are on “assigned Risk” and have to get state insurance. Your Experience Modifier Rate (EMR) increases, automatically disqualifying you from bidding on certain jobs and contracts. People who say that safety never comes first clearly don’t get it.
    I often wonder how so many TV and movie shows display people violating serious safety concerns like fall prevention, improper ladder climbing, safety glasses, or hearing protection without OSHA getting involved. Maybe if more people wrote in to OSHA or to some of the networks, some of this “in your face” mentality would change.

  128. I have just spent the last hour reading all the comments, they range from the best I have read to the worst. What a shame after all these years that some are still so blind.

    I have seen in some cases whith large companies out of control safety. it has reached a point with some that constant safety and paper pushing has supervisors so busy wit safety that have no time to suprevise. I have one job i was on recently where a JHA (job hazard anyalisis)was required for every step of work every day!! The suprevisors and employess are so taken aback that they have a bad attitude towards all safety. SHAME on This large international construction comany. i will not name names but you know who you are if you read this, It is horrible what you have done to good men, it will end in the death of someone then you will add even more in your blindness. you have forgotten the basics and the KISS rule at your own peril. The pendulum will swing back in time, i encougrage all real safety pros to keep tp the basics. To much CAN be to MUCH!!

    • Precisely! I am an controls electrician and used to actually be able to open a control panel to troubleshoot a problem to get a system back up and running. Now, we need to get permits and wear heavy arc flash suits and think gloves. This is going to ruin manufacturing industries with all of those hours of unnecessary down-time.

  129. Misses Cooper says:

    Safety always comes first. Whats the FIRST thing you do before you take a step? Check to make sure there is nothing to trip & fall on. Whats the FIRST thing you do when you get in your car (supposed to anyways)? Buckle your seat belt. What do you do before you cross the street? Look both ways so you dont get ran over. And thats just getting to work!
    I am a construction worker & also a safety supervisor for a very successful & high quality general contractor. Before work starts:
    As soon as we get out of our cars before stepping onsite we have on full PPE just in case any machinery is running around or any dangerous work is going on before start time. Then we all get together FIRST thing and warm up our muscles & stretch them out before any work begins. This is very important to prevent strains and sprains. Then we all get together & talk about what activities we are going to be doing for the day and how we are going to perform them safely. PRE-planning how to do your work safely prevents a lot of injuries. There are so many ways to get hurt while working if you dont START your work safely. We do PRE-inspections on all equipment, extension cords, rigging, tools, surface areas for holes & protrusions, etc. SAFETY FIRST & during work. Productivity & quality, of course, but you cant cut corners on safety to get the work done. Everything can be done safely, & safety is the easiest part of the job. I don’t get why people complain about protecting themselves. We’re paying people to do their work safely and of course effectively. But if they are hurt or dead the work isn’t going to get done. I don’t know if you have ever seen guys who have been in the trade for 30+ years; they are beat down, in pain, and can barely move to get the job done & wish safety would have been around then like it is now. And those are the guys who aren’t dead yet from mesothelioma or silicosis or a tragic accident.
    Saying that safety doesn’t come first is like saying…

    • Your missing his point all together! Insurance companies have ruined our industry. They have dictated to the point of being annoying. Companies are petrified of insurance companies now. Meanwhile the workers are miserable. I don’t need anyone telling me to wear gloves when I’m holding a pen. It’s gotten ridiculous.

      • He is kinda just talking his book, no? The left hates business. That’s why any time there is an industrial accident, especially involving the oil and gas industry, they (including members of the press academics and lefty politicians) go all berserker and start accusing the business involved of being immoral and corrupt and criminal ad nauseam. Just look at the sharedown of BP by Obama. Hand over your shareholders’ money! We don’t know the damage, but they’re going to pay us. That’s corruption. That’s what motivates the companies to basically do safety PR.

        However, it is also true that workers do some incredibly stupid things. Insurance companies help with establishing programs to lower their risks and thus the insurance costs of their customers. Insurance companies provide invaluable services in what remains of the free market for addressing risk and learning from mistakes. It is only when government intervenes that things go haywire. Examples include nuclear plants which due to government intervention are stuck in 60 year old technology in the US and construction in areas that flood, routinely and repeatedly.

  130. Misses Cooper says:

    …is like saying you don’t look both ways before you cross the street, you just walk into traffic. Safety comes first not just at work but all around us in life. If you put safety second or third it will be too late to go back and put it first.

  131. Suey Safety says:

    What I would really like to know, especially in the petrochemical field, what is it that Safety Managers and Directors perfer a) “Safety Cop” in the field; b) “Reliable Advisor” in the field; or c) “Secretary”?
    By “Safety Cop”, i am referring to the safety specialist is knows little or nothing about the way a plant actually manufactures and processes its product or OSHA’s Policies, Unable to read drawings, and concentrates solely on catching construction workers, operators, maintenance, etc. of violations of PPE. For the “Realible Advisor”, this is the Safety Specialist who is very knowable and understands the manufacturing and processing and operations of plant, could probably recite the OSHA Policy or would know where to find if questionable, and a “go-to-guy” when safety concerns are a possible issue. The “secretary” is the safety specialist who rearely goes in the field, conducts audits without merit but look good on paper to upper management, and is ignorant of the plants manufacturing, its operations and processing.
    Having been in this business for some 18yrs., I have found more “safety cops” than “advisors”. I consider myself to be an “Advisor” and when you look at the plant’s statisitcs, my area has repeatedly had less injuries compared to those ares of the “safety cop”. When the plant’s employees in the field know there is a dependable, professionally trained, knowledgable, and helpful safety specialist a relationship of trust is built which results in an increased and concious awareness of safety from PPE to Inert Entries, Critical Lifts and beyond.

  132. Tony Cobb says:

    As safety professionals perhaps we could use Mike’s show as an example to our employees as what not to do. Raising awareness by finding safety deficiencies in selected shows. Could be fun?

  133. I may be very late with the reply, but as a fan of mikes show. I can see why. 1st, I am an EHS prof. I spend a little over half my time with Environmental compliance. The rest of my time, I spend as an advocate. I make the case so that facility managers understand the importance of various safety issues, and how to comply. I speak often of violations, fines, general duty clauses, and recognized hazards. It is the rare facility manager that does not need an arguement. Early in my carreer, I worked for a place that dealt with very large quantities of highly hazardous substances (I was a chemist at the time). One day the EHS manager told me that when he took his position, the facility manager told him, that he (facility manager) was focused on production, it was his job to create a profit for the stockholders and he would do it. He then explained that he had hired the EHS manager to keep him in check. He had the power to stop any production line, any process at any time until it was in compliance and as safe as possible. He did. When the lines stopped, everyone took notice, and things were corrected… quickly. This is the EHS managers job. not just a random person appointed to safety that does what he/she happens to think is right at the time. There is no “safe” only “safer” andd it is this that inspired me to go into EHS. Smaller companies often do not have the resources to hire a qualified person, who understands the regulations and repercussions, knows what is means to monitor for exposure and how to mitigate it. The regulations grow yearly, and they are not always clear, many resources can only be obtained at a cost (NFPA guidelines, ASHRE etc.) And industry, especially small business simply does not know what they don’t know. In the large company that i work for, we have discovered that improving safety, also improves quality and to a slightly lesser extent production. But larger facilities have greater challenges, and a large percentage is due to…

  134. c scho i would really like to hear more of what you were saying, you were cut off before completing your thoughts. In may ways I think I feel the same. after 20 years I look back on 90% of being the “I told you so” guy. I try hard to focus on the 10% I have been able to help, somewhere out there is someone who was not hurt or worse due to my input. All we can do is TRY. As well i try as much as I can to keep my fee low especially for those small companies you mention. In today’s world where compliance has become punitive to small firms we need to help where we can. many times I find the smaller companies who seem to be anti safety are just fearful and think it impossible to be in compliance and make a buck. By taking the time to show them how to get there and that it will not take as much as they feared, they become excited and will rapidly “buy in” . I feel i have won when I can do this.

  135. To c scho and Brian, thank you for the comments. After all the controversy it is refreshing to know that you guys are out there trying to make a difference, showing business owners that it’s feasible to be profitable while complying. Even a little is better than nothing…

  136. Maybe Mike has this opinion because any company that does take safety seriously would not have him on their job site. I know that the company I work for as a Safety Professional, would not allow him on site without proper orientation, proper PPE, and since he would be an inexperienced individual, he would be escorted by either a supervisor or a Safety Rep.

  137. Safety is never first! It is an integral part of a process where it is no more important than Production or Profit.

    I’ve always used the Milk Stool analogy. A milk stool has three legs to allow it to stand on uneven ground. View each leg as Safety, Profit and Production. If you lose anyone leg the other two will fail. The success of a safety program relies in recognizing the importance of each leg.

  138. Oh, my. Where do I start? Well, first I’ll start with this man is an idiot. Perhaps his lack of proper PPE has fried his brain due to chemical exposure? He not only pointed out several OSHA violations, he filmed them while saying “I’m here at xyz company”. The exposure he has provided those companies he has visited is monumental. I’ve no doubt that he has spurred the Regulatory ire at the expense of what mostly are mom and pop organizations and have potentially damaged their livelihoods in the interest of having a facebook account in which he can spew his own ignorance. It would serve him well to be educated and understand this too……Production companies are subject to the same Federal Regulations when their job takes them onto such sites. He’s opened a pandoras box with idiocracy.

  139. Bill Lewis says:

    I am a Roughneck the safest company I have ever worked for did not have JSA’S or stop cards . And they have never had any serious accidents . Because safety is your responsibility. If it does’nt look safe and you don’t do it than they will find somebody that will . Safety men are a joke and part of the reason why people get injured . Because that is a “Political Position . They just want to cover there ass . They do not care about your well being or your “Safety”
    If Safety does come first than why do safety men work out of an office . Mike is right they only care about lawsuits.

  140. Bill Lewis says:

    Oh and if you do get hurt they will ask for a drug test first before even taking you to a Doctor . I actually had a safety man ask a doctor not to give me a shot because it would go down as an OSHA recordable accident . THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT $$$$

  141. Lee Likens says:

    Safety First! Money First! That is the question. Enough about the companies bottom line. What about the workers pay check. The one thing that makes us behave safely or ignore safety. You can not have one without the other. You may get away with taking shortcuts but eventually it will catch up to you in the form of injury, equipment malfunction or termination. Then you lose that all mighty dollar you bust your ass for every single day. 2 things will jeopardize your paycheck. 1 getting hurt. You get hurt and your sitting your ass at home, listening to your wife complain about your little or no paycheck watching Oprah. Secondly, if you get caught not following your customers rules and requirements (Safety again). Now your looking for a paycheck. SAFETY will always protect what we value most. Ourselves and our money. For all the people that bitch about Safety slowing you down. If you actually put a honest effort and stopped your whining, it would probably take you all of 5 minutes to fill out the forms and put your PPE on. JUST DO IT!!!

  142. Michael Windus says:

    I work in refineries all over the country and I can tell you from personal experience safety is only first when it’s convenient for the company if they need something done now but don’t have the proper ppe to issue they will turn they’re back and let you do the job if you are willing

  143. Richard Aceves says:

    I have been a safety professional for over 20 years and have been exposed to companies that dont care about the safety of their employees and to companies that care immensily abouth the wellbeing of their employees. The approach I have been using to work with management and employees is called Duty of Care, which means that as employers (regardless of regulations) we have a duty to ensure our employees go home the same way they came to work every morning to their loved ones. For the employees, this means they have a duty of care to take responsibility for their own actions, engage and participate in the safety process, and assist and support their fellow workers when not behaving safely. We also have rules and regulations as well that employers have to comply with and that is part of the real world, but we go beyond compliance because there is a return on the investment for safety for many reasons including personal for employees. We involve the family to educate them on what we expect out of our employees from a health and safety perspective. My team and I travel the world meeting management, employees to understand their goals and challenges and how can we support them to improve the safety culture but ultimately, how can we influence their mind to change their behaviour and thought process about safety. We are not COPS! but we do have a responsibility to the employee and to our employer, and legally to correct unsafety conditions and behaviors. If we notice something that has the potential to injure or hurt someone, we have a duty of care to stop it. The employee has a duty of care to stop as well and we have supported, and management to walk out of jobs because the conditions were not safe. There are many employers out there that operate in this fashion, so for those of you that accept the status quo, challenge it! If you see they don’t care, look for a business that cares! otherwise next time we comment on a similar topic, you may not be here to be able to comment. Wish you all a long a safe and prosperous career!

  144. York Ironman says:

    We started young learning safety from our parents and hopefully those around us. Through this we learned to employ logic and common sense in our daily lives. There are too many out there who choose not to employ either and make workplaces unsafe for others. However, logic and common sense should be enough to keep a job site safe. The abuse of compensation systems here in Ontario, Canada is rampant and mostly by those who are out for personal gain. We had one guy pretend to hurt himself so he would go on ‘comp’, turns out this must be a hereditary disease because his father had done the same thing at another company. Our industry is huge but very small when it comes to people, word travels fast. I applaud Mike Rowe for stating the truth as it applies to many and most businesses. Productivity should not suffer because of safety, people using logic and common sense make a jobsite safe.

  145. Dimitri Fotopoulos says:

    Safety should come first, but it never does. I worked 13 years as a Safety Professional, and the company motto was Safety First. That was a total lie. This is what the company said, not what they did, but when you say it often enough, it acts as a kind of smokescreen to protect a company for their heinous disregard of the welfare of their employees. I did the best I could, for as long as I could, but in the end, my conscience got the better of me and I walked away.

  146. As a career Safety Professional I can tell you with certainty that the employees safety is my main concern. People in my line of work have to fight with corporate all the time to maintain our budget and to constantly push for better gear and a slower pace for the employees.
    That being said, I can’t make you safe.
    Only you, as an employee, can make the decision to be safe. No one else can affect you. I can remind you, make policy to try to move hazards from your workplace. But, ultimately, you decide to be safe or not.
    Please make the right decision.

  147. MayaPinion says:

    Answer #1: I was the safety manager. My boss was one of those guys who managed by platitude, not design, and he continually worked over the slogans: “Safety is our number one priority”, “We won’t do anything if we don’t do it safely”, etc. After a spate of minor injuries in tandem with cancellation of several safety training sessions that we didn’t have time for, he demanded of me to end all accidents once and for all. “50 bucks and an hour”, I told him. Went to the hardware store and bought 7 padlocks. Announced a fire drill, and when everyone evacuated, I locked the gates and declared the plant permanently safe. Suddenly Safety was not our #1 priority.
    Platitudes don’t cut it. Vision, planning, execution, diligence, amending course – that will help.
    Answer #2: You manage safety within your sphere of influence. If you want to watch reality TV, you’re going to get reality TV. Don’t expect any 50th wedding anniversaries reunions from The Bachelor, and don’t fall for industrial safety advice from an opera singer.

    • I’ve long said the only OSHA safe workplace is a closed one. I’m glad I was able to retire when I did because OSHA will soon have every manufacturing facility in the US closed or converted to robotics. I’ve seen what’s happened over the last 50 years. OSHA has to justify itself by constantly adding rules and regulations and they’ve gotten absolutely insane in the last 5 years.

      • Anthony J Donaldson says:

        Care to back that up? Why don’t you look at the statistics on workplace fatalities and how they have shrunk in occurrence since the inception of OSHA in the 1970’s.

  148. As a 16 year construction safety professional, I can say with all certainty that Rowe is 100% correct. “Safety First” is nothing more than a marketing slogan. The majority of construction companies could care less about safety. That is until someone gets hurt or killed. Then the entire company jumps on board for a few days. After the dust settles it’s right back to the status quo. The few companies that do make concerted efforts to be safe only do so for legal and/or financial reasons. It certainly isn’t for moral reasons. Sure they all preach it, but they only really practice is so long as it doesn’t affect project schedules or have too much of an impact on the bottom dollar. My profession only exists to help keep businesses out of trouble with OSHA.

  149. Stephen “Don'ttreadonme145” Ba says:

    Honestly, I disagree with Mike here. Safety should always be used no matter whag you are doing and your gunna do that something. Safety is not third priority.

    I’ll tell you this, safety is one of 3 legs for business, the other two or production and quality. If one falls, then they all fall. But heres a kicker, safety is also part of everyone’s daily life. Do people always utilize safety? No, that’s why many get injured or killed.
    Where I work (welding shop btw), my coworkers drink beer while on the clock all day long and so does my boss.
    Because of this, I ended up eating a steel kick plate right into the face.

    Safety will always be integrated to get better results in production and quality.

    The reason OSHA was invented was to keep workers safe no matter what because to many kept getting injured or killed and none of the companies cared. Even in a high school woodshop before I graduated had OSHA rules in it (closed it down due to funding), as did the automotive shop.

    Honestly, if your not gunna use comments sense to stay safe then you might as well hit the bricks where you work. Work environments are team work environments (suppose to be at least). Not only do you need to be responsible for your actions and safety, but also pay attention to your coworkers if you can and always pay attention to your surroundings.

    Don’t even argue the point, safety is a matter where it’ll be integrated into everything. And don’t even bother to sit thereally and exaggerate on that you must where gloves and eye protection while using a pen, that is utter bullshit and doesn’t happen just because. You only do that if you are in the work environment.

  150. Southbury Joe says:

    If your boss is NOT telling you “safety first”, you should consider another job.

    • Brother John says:

      If your boss denies you the tools or materials available to keep yourself intact, I would agree. If he’s just spouting off, “safety first!” and making you take unnecessary steps before you can do productive work, he’s just covering his own ass.

  151. If SAFETY was the first priority in life, a person would live in a concrete bunker and never get out of bed. The drive to work is dangerous.

    Safety is just a corporate ass covering. Management will spend an hour in safety meetings then complain that something is taking too much time to accomplish. To do a ten minute job like greasing a conveyor, safety requires that the conveyor be shut down even though the manufacturer recommends greasing the bearings while they are turning. This requires locking out the power and notifying anyone who will be effected by the shutdown and having them sign a form saying they have been notified. Then the proper safety gear has to be brought out. Electrical insulating gloves have to be checked for leaks before putting them on then leather gloves covering them, turn off the switch, install a lock, use a meter to make certain the power is off. Only then can the bearings be greased. Before turning the power back on, the same people have to sign off then check and don all of the safety equipment again to turn the power back on. Spending over an hour on a ten minute job. Sometimes even longer to track down the people and safety equipment.

  152. Ryan Gomez says:

    safety is a way of life –

  153. I apologize if this has been addressed previously but I got tired of reading the nonsense.
    Do you know why there are sooooo many safety rules? US! The workers. Those that do dumb stuff and get hurt. The guy who is chipping a weld without glasses and loses sight in one eye. The gal cutting lumber with the safety quick-stop switch jammed open. The kid stuffing chicken into the industrial grinder with his hand ( I was there for that one and disassembled the machine to get what was left of his hand out. )
    When the inevitable lawsuits come, the lawyers ask ” Do you have an SOG for not jamming things into the safety switch? Did you train your people that sharp things flying into you eye can hurt you? Did you educate this guy that human hands don’t do well in meat grinders? Did you have a safety meeting to explain these things to your people?”
    We complain about the rules and regs but most of them are written after somebody screws it up.
    Millennials don’t take responsibility? We don’t take responsibility.
    Quit complaining and get on with it.

  154. I am so sick and tired of hearing all this. Safety is worth something. I am the safety director of a company and the reason why so many people have a bad taste in their mouth for safety is because so many companies make it extremely over complicated. I believe that you can have a common sense approach to safety, keep people safe, be budget friendly and not get in the way of production. I have seen for many years now that naive ignorant people still put production first at the risk of their workers life. I don’t care how how many numbers you crunch, no amount is worth potentially ruining someones life all so you can save some money or meet a deadline. Also for those that think its a load of crap, please feel free to stop using all safety equipment ever made and just go back to working on heights with no fall protection or any thing like that and join the 12 people everyday that died before the creating of OSHA. You company will clearly appreciate your dedication to saving them money by not using expensive unnecessary ppe. Make sure you up your life insurance before you do that though.

  155. Funny stuff! Mr. Rowe will be the first one suing his employer when he does get hurt for unsafe working conditions, even though there probably is a clause in his contract stating he can’t. He talks a load of nonsense! Plain Stupidity as Forrest Gump would say “Stupid is as stupid does”

  156. In my experience almost every company has the “safety First” slogan in their mission statement.
    This does make good business sense as the cost of failure to ensure safety of people and equipment will affect the companies bottom line financially and from a reputation point of view this can be extremely detrimental to future business.
    Safety first can only be true if the company makes a profit. Without profit there is no business and companies work on so far as reasonably practicable.
    Safety first is a cultural concept it is morally right to protect those you are legally responsible for regardless of the legal obligation. Companies are not a single entity but made up of a complex network of individual with sometimes widely differing motivations subject to the environment as well as culture they find them selves. Their perceptions are not always aligned.
    Safety First is just a slogan I would prefer the Phrase People First.
    Safety is an intangible concept People are tangible.
    I think the Issue in this debate is that peoples perceptions of company employee relationships is a reflection of the culture between management and non management. Our Systems are often badly managed and disjointed with often little demonstrated consistency. Misinterpretation of requirements and poor assessment contribute to a feeling of an ever spiralling perceived legislative burden that fosters distrust in people to competently perform their tasks without many checks and balances designed to theoretically prevent accidents when in reality it diminishes compliance and detracts from critical analysis at the individual level leading to less time to consider aspects of the task that people would normally address.
    We need less complexity and a radical rethink of what is actually required and what is just spurious processes that add no value and take up time. Make it simple and people are more likely to accept and follow a system. This also fosters the idea that management have considered the worker in the process rather than bypassed his input in favour of a miss placed notion that adding more will justify a position and look great on your PMR.

    • As a safety professional in heavy Civil for over twenty fives years the commodity is the people who do the work . Each person represent something special to each JOB/ TASK during the coarse of the day , when these men and women are not just doing their JOB but putting theirs on the line working next to active highways working under ground in shafts and tunnels NO JOKE .We all have to TRUST other each day I as the professional look to THEM for issues to CORRECT or MAKE EASIER AS THEY ARE DOING THE WORK . FYI many of us Safety Professional are the medics council reminders of compliance how ladders are be use of proper protection factors , we look at the humanity everyday THESE FOLKS ARE MY RESPOSBILITY IF OSHA COMES KNOCKING I AM ALWAYS THE ONE THEY LOOK FIRST we are deem the compentent ones. The gloves glasses raingear are just small part TRUST RESPECT and a THANK TO EACH CREW EACH DAY IS MORE IMPORTANT and in turn They do the RIGHT and when I have to get in the mud with them I do the Trust is there .
      Anybody who hides at the desk does paper work all the graphs charts ect. DOES NOT SAVE LIVES .

  157. paul hancock says:

    Its down to the employer to provide a safe place of work. Making people wear PPE doesnt make for a safe place of work, its still dangerous but the likelyhood of getting hurt is reduced. Sort out the issues at ground level and the issue of PPE will be irrelevant but its easier to make workers wear PPE, it just moves the responsibility from employer to employee.

  158. Oil And Gas says:

    For those of you that say your companies DO care you because of their “safety” programs and how safe they want you to be or their awesome safety program… Watch what happens when they start loosing money because of a downturn. Guess how much they care about you then as they’re laying you off? While there is money, your safety is a factor of lawyers, stupid management who doesn’t have a clue about the actual job, or regulations. Zero incidents is an unobtainable goal. Safety champions always say “every incident is preventable”. Well yeah AFTER THE FACT! It’s easy to look back on what could have been different hind sight 20/20. You want zero incidents; zero accidents? Remove humans at EVERY level of the equation. In other words, nothing. The oil field went stupid.

  159. I’m going to sum up my thoughts as quickly as possible here.

    Safety is a culture. Some companies have it, some companies do not. When you have people that buy into that culture, it creates an atmosphere where people truly look out for each other. We want to see each other go home the same way we came to work. We have families waiting for us at home. As far as the business side goes, an injury expense (Medical expenses, workman’s compensation, lawsuits and lost production) comes right off of the bottom line. . The net profit. The money that goes in the bank after the bills are paid. Purchasing PPE, training, safety programs and other expenses are wise actions that act as an insurance policy to help minimize the likelihood of an injury. It is the law, it is the right thing to do and it protects the business. Anyone that tells you that it creates complacency simply does not understand how business works.

    The primary enemy of a potentially successful business is an unsafe work environment that lacks safety culture.

  160. First in Safety common sense comes a long way. I would love to see OSHA watch all of this type shows and be able to fine them for not using proper PPEs and being safe.

  161. Doug Clement says:

    Mike Rowe is the man for saying this. It’s high time someone did. It’s now 2018. I have worked for the same manufacturing facility for 18 years and have seen working conditions go from bad to worse. We are safety everything. Hearing protection, glasses, hornet, smock, authorized tools, authorized users, harnesses, guarding over every piece of moving machinery, constant training, etc. An outsider would look on us and say my god these people know what safety is. The problem is and Rowe hits on it is that safety minded workforce becomes complacent. The job is no longer getting done because it’s a pain in the ass to do anything. Lock out, tag out, tape off area, get a hot workpermit, remove a bunch of guarding, ect. The list goes on forever. Other things we used to do internally have been labled unsafe and are now done by 3rd party contractors. Small jobs are becoming difficult to do because many of the required tools have been deemed unsafe. Things like hand grinders, drill presses, lathes and milling machines have been taken out of the manufacturing areas because they are unsafe? So this means that jobs requiring the use of these tools have now truly become unsafe because we have to use the wrong tools to get the job done. Let’s be clear tools are not unsafe. People are stupid bottom line and xxxx happens. So now what? Do we eventually bankrupt or drive our businesses overseas because they are so unproductive as a result of safety first? What is the end game? Mike Rowe is right. Safety is a bunch of bull and it should not fall on any employer to be accountable for stupid people or xxxx happening. Yes peoples lives hang in the balance, but so do peoples livelihoods for a paycheck. It is far more important in my book to supply a working force with a paycheck than worry about a few getting hurt or killed. Maybe this makes me a bad person I don’t care. I’m more concerned with our ability to be competitive in a complacent country. If it must be this way there should be a global standard so that it is at least a level playing field. If I were a business owner I would not consider the usa why would anyone. We are killing ourselves and don’t even know it. But 18 years of seeing the downward spiral I know it. Anyone else either hasnt lived it or is too stupid to realize they are being slowly boiled and will soon be out of a job. Wake up American people and see what you have done. I dare anyone to challenge what I have said.

  162. The CSO position (at least here) is most likely the most useless position on an entire job site. They act like construction workers, maybe have a bunch of tickets, but they mostly hang out in the safety office and then march around and pick apart everyone’s work in the name of “safety” then retreat back to the warmth and comfort of their office just to look busy. It’s regulated that they need a CSO, but I have military first aid, carry my own first aid kit, and the 40 people that work for me I ensure they know what on earth they are doing and tell them they have the right to refuse any unsafe work.

    The best thing a CSO can do is give you your orientation, stuff a rag in their mouth and go home.

  163. I’ve been in industrial scaffolding for 17 years, and safety is nothing but a thorn in the side. I tend to work night shift, as they lock the safety narcs up at night. With them locked up we can do our job efficiently. Fall protection, eye protection, and hazard assessments simply slow the job down, and have no value whatsoever. All that these so called ‘safety professionals’ do is take up space, and get people in trouble. They often cause people to lose their jobs, and the ability to feed their families.

  164. I feel safety should be handled the way it was at my last construction job. Private party, not company. There was plenty of safety gear available. Eye protection, ear protection, face shields, harnesses, gloves, etc. If you wanted to wear it, wear it. If not, you’re stupid, have fun being stupid. That’s it. Planer screams loud enough to hurt my ears? Ear protection is nice. Tile saw does the same? Ear protection again. Swaying 25′ up on a single set of scaffolding glazing windows? No harness. Why? It wouldn’t have helped. It would’ve gotten in the way and made the job take longer. As much as I hate heights, longer is not something I want at all.

    Safety is nice, but at what point do you put the burden on the worker? Do you give them a pair of pliers to hold the nails so they don’t hurt their widdle fingers, or do you expect them to lose a fingernail and treat that as a learning experience? If you have jobs that are inherently dangerous it’s better to have workers that understand and respect the dangers than a bunch of safety standards and complacency.

  165. I totally agree with Mike on this one. Safety is your personal responsibility plain and simple. If you do not feel safe do not do it. I work in construction and all this safet crap is out of control. How many times do I need to do the same safety course? I do agree being safe is important but damn it is the newest scare tactic for safety companies to make a profit and justify jobs. Seriously do you think anyone makjng these decisions in the fortune 500 company I work for cates one bit about little old me. No it is so if somethings does happen the lawyers can check off the box and say he knew better. If companies spend half as much time on training their people to do their actual job and same amount of time and effort maki g sure they did their job as they do on safety then boy could the company be better. I am the technical leader for our district and cannot get any budget or time allocation not to mention enforcement of actual job training and implementation of how the work is being done. But damn if the safety director calls it then everyone better attend and you better do it.

  166. Ben Smith says:

    I definitely agree with Mike on this one!
    Indeed recognizing danger and taking precautions is only common sense but this thing is out of control!!! I work heavy industry and have done so for a very long time and what I see is otherwise incapable “Safety Professionals” lol… Just trying to one up the other. This notion of dumbing everything down in an effort to save the stupid ones (at the direction of legal department) has become maddening!

  167. As a safety professional, thus far in my career I have yet to work for a company for whom “safety first” applies. Yes, they all say it, but when push comes to shove if time and/or money are tight, it most certainly does not come first. The only time true attention is paid is coming up to an audit, following an audit with a poor result or following an accident. Ie: I work in damage control, not safety. Anyone who believes otherwise is kidding themselves. Workers care about safety, managers and business owners do not.

  168. I own a safety company, I deal with some of the largest companies in the U.S.., I am a college professor, I teach safety and OSHA law……anyone that calls themselves safety professionals and thinks profits are not above safety needs a reality check!!!!!safety training for most companies is a necessary evil!!!! ( a forced action brought on by the passing of “The General Duty Clause” pass by Congress in 1970. Most large companies use catchy safety slogans like used car salesmen use words like honesty and integrity. Mike Rowe is exactly right in his opinion. If the courts would start holding more owners and board of directors accountable for negligence (not just fines from OSHA) you might see more than just catchy slogans but a change in culture.
    PROFITS….. that’s the name of the game I am not against profits, I have a major problem with GREED. As more and more politicians are bought out by corporations we are going to see more tort reform laws passed ( limiting civil law suites to 500k) for negligent death accidents. Nothing but a pin prick to large corporations. It’s all about the profits, it’s never been about safety ( until it effects profits). Thank you Mr Rowe for not being scarred to voice your opinion!
    27 years in this mess and I agree with you 100%.!!!!!
    Some of the worlds largest companies are using “Generic” training materials, may satisfy ( in some cases) your legal obligations but offer very little as far as a real safety program.

  169. Sauaina Nautu says:

    If safety was so important, would we ever make it to the moon or soar in the skies? Safety was never the issue, the need for conquest was always first. Have you ever fought hunger and won? I don’t think you can win that battle. When hunger kicks in, you don’t think about safety, you think about how you will stave off the urge to consume to satisfy the need. If you want to be safety, don’t exist!!!! The great adventures and heroes of time did not consider safety or maybe just a little, conquest was more important and history will always speak of their names because they risked it all. Sure, they were afraid but they also used their deductive reasoning in minimizing the risk involved. Mr. Rowe is correct in challenging the norm and the complacency that I consistently see in the construction site. First and foremost, I am electrician by trade and inspector on my current employment and my safety is mines and mines alone. I have experience first hand when you leave your well being to someone else’s hand and that I survived because I refuse to except the norm their response that the power was turned off. I checked for myself and it was not secured and this is not the first time this has happened. Yes, there is this fear that I may look bad or make the other individual look very stupid but the bottom line is, I want to go home on my own two feet under my own strength. Safety culture has become a joke and a farce and it has greatly removed common sense from the industry and it affects the most intelligent people that I know.

  170. Safety, Production and efficiency(timeliness). You can only have two at the most at any one time.


  1. […] couple years ago, the Discovery Channel’s Mike Rowe set off a firestorm of commentary on the role of safety in the workplace. Rowe stars in the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. […]

  2. […] Mike Rowe: ‘Safety First’ is ‘a load of unmitigated nonsense’ […]

  3. […] couple years ago, the Discovery Channel’s Mike Rowe set off a firestorm of commentary on the role of safety in the workplace. Rowe stars in the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. […]

Speak Your Mind