In recent years, fears and concerns about safety have been flooding our social network. This feeling of unsafety is due to a series of national crises such as the Sewol ferry incident and the Mers scare. They have created strong safety awareness among the public. Despite the rising concern over matters of public safety, a lot of people still are not able to answer questions about how to ensure due to the lack of proper education of safety awareness and practice in our risk-prone society.
Unsafe condition can often lead to physical harm causing various injuries. Injury is a cause of increased medical use, disability, or even death in fatal case. The reason for injury to be addressed significantly in the public health area is that the risk of injury among the nation’s youth population is very high. According to the nation’s leading causes of death in differnt age groups (2014), road traffic accidents are the second most common cause of death for children aged under 10. For people aged between 10 and 20 years old, road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death, followed by suicide. These two injuries are also leading causes of death for those aged 20 to 30 years old. It is extremely regrettable, considering that these accidents were highly preventable with some environmental improvement.
In the past, injury was considered to be accidental and uncontrollable. Contrary to this belief, however, injury is a preventable disease having epidemiologic factors influencing its occurrence. In a typical injury case, there are three interacting factors that contribute to the unfortunate occurrence: human factors, environmental factors, and vehicle factors. It is thus crucial to address these three factors in pursuing the idea of safety promotion and injury prevention. Accordingly, the following three-front strategy, “3E strategy,” is provided to address the those factors respectively: Educational strategy for the human factor, Environmental and Engineering strategy for the environmental and vehicle factors and Enforcement strategy (strengthen of regulation) for the human factor. When it comes to environment, it implies not only physical environment, but also social environment, which refers to various cultural discourses of public safety.
The formation and vitalization of safety culture is critical in any attempt to deal with our crisis-ridden society, without which all the technological and financial efforts made for safety promotion are rendered futile. As we have observed numerous regulations on private education being criticized as ineffective, no policy is powerful than underlying attitudes and values prevailing in society. Without the promotion and education of safety culture, no matter what policy initiatives we take on, we would never be able to build a safe society.
Take the example of a bicycle helmet. One of the key strategies in promoting motorcycle safety is to wear a helmet. However, it hasn’t been long since people thought it necessary to wear helmets. It is through the increase of cycling clubs that the movement to wear a safety helmet took place. You would be tempted not to wear a helmet if you are riding your bike alone. If you are in a group where everyone wears a helmet, however, you would naturally wear a helmet, because you belong to a group that is conscious of safety and security. Activities and efforts of peer group can change individual behaviors.
Reports on safety concerns and dangerous occurrences, even within a college campus, have been increasing recently. Other than traffic accidents, our daily life on campus involves various risks of injury ranging from lab-related incidents to mental health issues. It is important for all of us to form our own safety culture on campus, starting with small safety actions. I believe that our small actions toward safety can make a big difference in this world.
Professor Park Hye-sook is a professor of the Department of Preventive Medicine. She received her master’s degree and Ph.D. at Ewha Womans University.