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Beyond injury prevention
The concept of “safety” can have many different meanings. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it as “freedom from danger and risks”, while the Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes safety as “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss”. According to etymologist Douglas Harper, the word safe first came into use in the English language around 1280, derived from the Old French sauf, which in turn stemmed from the Latin salvus, meaning “uninjured, healthy, safe”. The Latin word is related to the concepts of salus (“good health”), saluber (“healthful”), and solidus (“solid”), all derived from the Proto-Indo-European base word solwos, meaning “whole”.1 Thus, at its root, the concept of safety revolves around wholeness and health.
Injury prevention researchers have defined safety as “a state or situation characterised by adequate control of physical, material, or moral threats”, which “contributes to a perception of being sheltered from danger” (Andersson and Svanström, as quoted in Welander et al, page 122). Safety is commonly viewed through the lens of specific injury domains: for some researchers in the injury prevention field, safety has come to mean the prevention of crime and violence; for others, a reduction in motor vehicle deaths or a feeling of being out of danger rather than being in a positive state of human growth and development.3
Due to the multitude of views on the definition of safety, a collaborative effort was launched in 1996 by two World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centers on Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention, sponsored by the Ministry of Health, Quebec, Canada, and Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, to develop international consensus on the conceptual and operational aspects of safety and safety promotion.2 A document was published in 1998 entitled Safety and Safety Promotion: Conceptual …