The danger of calling “safety” a priority is that the very act of prioritization means logically something is has to be secondary.
The preference should be to call Safety (and other important process issues) values. This way it becomes the “way” the work is accomplished. If an organization is operating outside their values then they are making bad choices for their process solutions. For example I love making money but I’ll only do that “legally”. If any of my ideas for making money go outside that value, then I need to come up with another idea. The same can be true about other values. Safety, environmentally friendly, Legal, financially sound, efficient, effective are all examples of HOW we can choose to work. Now obviously nothing in the human experience of creating work is an absolute pure science. It works within a much larger system of challenges. The problem with SAFETY as a priority is that in most companies it will take only minutes to prove to your staff that it “ISN’T”. Getting people to meet co-existing values happens every day. Every time your construction crew waits for an inspector, every time your corporation gives some of their money to the government for taxes and licences there is a meeting of more than one value. Safety can work the same way.
There’s nothing wrong with having coexisting values. “We at XYZ Corporation will endeavour to provide excellence is services and products through effective, efficient, financially wise, safe, environmentally friendly, etc… production. The list can contain your company values without putting a “top ten” list together. They all need to be considered in the “work plan”. If the solution is efficient and effective but puts the corporation at risk of damaging the environment…then you haven’t found the solution yet!
Look for the part about Priority (2.02 seconds)