What is Safety?

What does safety mean?
According to the International Basic Safety Standards (ISO/IEC GUIDE 1990: 2014), formulated in 51 and revised in 2014.

Safety is defined as "freedom from unacceptable risk"

In general (especially in Japan), many people may think of "absolute safety" when thinking of safety, but this definition stipulates that “safety” is when unacceptable risks have been removed to the point that only acceptable ones remain.
Risk is defined in the international safety standard as a "combination of the probability of occurrence of harm and the severity of that harm", and the degree of harm varies depending on the field in which safety is being defined, but it is mainly considered to be detriment to the body’s physical health or well-being. 

The background to this idea is that there is no such thing as “absolute safety”, and the definition is based on the idea that there is always danger lurking in something that is usable. The degree of danger is thought to be the problem, rather than whether it exists or not.

Differences in Safety Awareness

Awareness of "safety" varies between countries and ethnic groups, and recognizing and accepting these differences is especially important in today's world, where everything is expanding globally.
It is said that it was Isaiah Ben Dasan's The Japanese and the Jews (1971) that made the Japanese aware of how their safety awareness differed from the West.
It stated that Jewish people would even live in hotels or pay a lot of money to protect their precious lives, whereas Japanese people feel their safety is naturally protected or that someone will protect it, so they don’t really feel the need to be aware of it.

Until that time, dangerous things did not exist in Japanese people’s awareness, and it seems that there was a strong tendency for so-called “absolute safety," meaning that that no matter what you do, it will not be dangerous. Given that kind of awareness, when an accident occurs in a system deemed safe, blame is concentrated, the myth of safety collapses, and the media gets interested. These could be seen as characteristic of this "safety" awareness.
On the other hand, absolute safety does not exist in Europe and the United States; rather, it seems that the degree of danger is considered to be the problem. They believe that accidents can occur even in “safe” situations, and it seems that safety means the risk of accidents that may occur has been suppressed to a low level.
This Western way of thinking is directly conveyed through the International Basic Safety Standards mentioned above.

Japanese Way of Thinking
Western Way of Thinking
If you try your best, you can prevent disasters from happening a second time.
Disasters always occur based on skill level, even if you try your best.
  • People are the main cause of disasters
  • Prioritize measures for humans over those for technology
  • Disaster prevention is a technological issue
  • Prioritize measures for technology over those for humans
Create a management system, educate and train people:
Safety can be ensured by tightening regulations
Because people always make mistakes,
safety cannot be ensured unless we improve technical capabilities
Aim to make people and facilities under the Industrial Safety and Health Act,
 tighten regulations every time a disaster occurs
Make equipment safe, and implement technological measures
that will stop an accident from becoming serious if one occurs
Safety can generally be achieved for free
Achieving safety will generally cost money
  • It is difficult to accept that safety costs money
  • Dealt with visible “concrete dangers” at the lowest cost possible,
    but did not dig deeper into technological measures to deal with disasters that may not occur
  • Safety costs money
  • Identified sources of danger, evaluated risks, and spent based on the evaluations.
    Made efforts to reduce the disasters that could occur,
    through which various techniques and tools were born
Technology to eliminate dangers found (Technology that detects danger)
Technology that verifies safety using logic (Technology that confirms safety)
Emphasis on frequency (number of occurrences)
Emphasis on severity (Serious accidents)

Masao Mukaidono (ed.), Society of Safety Technology and Application (2000): Kokusaika Jidai no Kikai System Anzen Gijutsu, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun