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The Semantics of Security and Safety

Posted by Charles "Chuck" Chadwick, Jr. on

In the scope of issues dealing with causing harm to a church's people or property there is a dividing line that defines the proper use of the words describing the threat.


This article will definitively make the distinction between "Safety" and "Security".


Let us look at the definitions according to Webster:


Safety -

(noun) guard, safety, safety device - a device designed to prevent injury or accidents

(noun) safety - the condition or state of being safe; freedom from danger or hazard; exemption from hurt, injury, or loss

(noun) safety - freedom from whatever exposes one to danger or from liability to cause danger or harm; safeness; hence, the quality of making safe or secure, or of giving confidence, justifying trust, insuring against harm or loss, etc


Security -

(noun) security - the condition or quality of being secure

(noun) security - freedom from risk; safety

(noun) security system, security measure, security - an electrical device that sets off an alarm when someone tries to break in

(noun) security, security measures - measures taken as a precaution against theft or espionage or sabotage etc.


Although the two quite similar definitions seem to have some common identifiers, they are really two distinctively different words.





While the basic definitions, according to Webster, can be vague, the United States government has made it very easy to make the distinction by the establishment of the Occupations Health and Safety Administration or OSHA.


The OSHA standards are very exact when it come to what "Safety" is. OSHA divides industry and the standards into seven areas:


These Standards are –

  • 1910 - General Industry
  • 1915 - Shipyard Industry
  • 1917 - Marine Terminals
  • 1918 - Longshoreing
  • 1919 - Gear Certification
  • 1926 - Construction
  • 1928 - Agriculture


The Church belongs to the General Industry standards.


There are thousands of OSHA requirements.


They include:

  • Electricity Rules
  • Sanitation and Air Quality requirements
  • Machine Use, Maintenance & Repair
  • Posting Notices and Warnings
  • Reporting Accidents and Illnesses
  • Keeping detailed records
  • Adopting Written Compliance Program
  • Employee Training and Qualifications


In review of the Standards the following issues would need to be addressed:

  • Subpart D – Walking-Working Surfaces
  • Subpart E – Means of Egress
  • Subpart F – Powered platforms/Manlifts
  • Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment
  • Subpart J – General Environmental Controls
  • Subpart K – Medical and First Aid
  • Subpart L – Fire Protection
  • Subpart O – Machinery
  • Subpart P – Hand and Portable Powered Tools
  • Subpart S – Electrical


Church Safety Plan Documents 

  • Emergency Response Plan
  • Accident Investigation Form 
  • Fire Extinguisher Inspection Log 
  • Individual Reprimand for Safety Discrepancies 
  • Safety Video Forms Combined
  • Ladder Safety




In contrast let us look at "Security":


One regulatory agency defines "Security" guards as having the following duties:


Section 1702.323 (d) Provide a private watchman, guard, or street patrol service to:

  1. prevent entry, larceny, vandalism, abuse, fire, or trespass on private property;
  2. prevent, observe, or detect unauthorized activity on private property;
  3. control, regulate, or direct the movement of the public, whether by vehicle or otherwise to ensure the protection of property;
  4. protect an individual from bodily harm including through the use of a personal protection officer; or
  5. perform a function similar to a function listed in this section.




When studied, the difference comes in the "intent" of the harm.


"Safety" specifically deals with harm that is "Unintentional" or "Accidents". Unsafe working conditions, hazards, etc.


"Security" specifically deals with harm that is "Intentional" or "Deliberate" by a perpetrator or perpetrators. Robbery, theft, murder, fraud - crimes against persons or property crimes.


So, unless you have a "Safety Team" running around looking for ladder safety violators, call them your "Security" team.


While there are laws that regulate the Security industry in some states, the laws are there to protect us and not to inconvenience us into calling them something they are not.

The solution; train, qualify, certify and license them legally to be just that; our "Security Team". NOCSSM is continually working with churches to find legal solutions that meet the state laws while minimizing the risk to both the church and its people.


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