When someone says…. “Is it safe?”

What does that mean ?

Webster defines safe as;

1. Secure from harm, danger, or evil
2. Free from injury or danger
3. Free from risk
Every one of these definitions are horribly wrong.


When you say to someone, “Yes it is safe”, it is never completely secure or free from injury, risk, or danger.

Completely free from all of these? Are you kidding me?

I think it is interesting that we make decisions about what is “safe” many times a day during our entire lives. It has to be one of the most commonly used words in the English language, yet no 2 people in a conversation share the same meaning of the word in their mind when they are talking.

Is this a safe car?
Is this a safe investment?
Is it safe to go out with him?
Is it safe for my kids to watch this?
Is it safe to surf this beach?
Is it safe to fly on this airplane?
Is it safe to breath?
Is it safe to launch this rocket?
Is it safe to drive to work?
Is it safe to eat this?
Is this a safe partnership?
Every one of us everyday decides yes or no to these type of questions without really thinking about it. When we say something is “safe”, it is never completely free from risk or harm. Sometimes not even close.


Why don’t we have an agreed upon definition of a word so important and so widely used in our communication?

I think the definition of safe is;

“The perceived benefits outweigh the perceived risks”And the word “perceived” needs to be in there twice.


Perception of both parties is always different. Usually dramatically different between the minds of 2 different people.

Think about that next time you use the wood SAFE.

Especially in Business.

Got a better definition ?

Mark L. Fox

About admin

Mark L. Fox is a leading authority on teaching practical creative thinking techniques for business. Mark was the youngest Chief Engineer ever on the Space Shuttle program at the age of 31. He received NASA’s highest recognition of “Launch Honoree” at the age of 23. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering with an MBA. Having held top management positions in Rocket Science, Aircraft Hydraulics, Engineering Services, Customer Service, Software, and e-Business, Mark has an extremely diversified background.


  1. Again Mark you have succeeded in opening my mind. The word safe is on everyone’s mind these days yet we fail to appreciate that the only way to experience an economic recovery is to create one which will require us to apply the meaning of safe that you gave us here.

  2. Ya Mark your definition is pretty much spot on. Anytime safety is considered the term risk has to be used hand in hand. Perceived is probably the word society should be the most concerned about. I would imagine everyone from Maddoff to the top bankers and auto execs PERCEIVED they could pull it off!

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