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Q&A with Barbara Guthrie: Getting Kids Wild about Safety

Barbara Guthrie, , , Barbara Guthrie UL

October 5, 2015

In 2007, UL launched Safety Smart® — a global educational program designed to improve children's awareness and understanding of safety, health and environmental issues, and encourage changes in their behaviors. Barbara Guthrie — UL’s Chief Public Safety Officer — was one of the program’s champions from its inception. Today, she’s sharing details about what has made this program so successful for nearly a decade.

Q: Tell us about the origins of the Safety Smart® program.

BARBARA: Each year, accidents claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of children worldwide, and it’s the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. As a company committed to safety science, we created the Safety Smart® program to help educate children about safety risks. Safety Smart® cultivates safety awareness, teaches safe behaviors and helps children make more informed choices. Safety Smart® has reached millions of children, teens, young adults and parents in more than 25 countries around the world.

Q: What is the Safety Smart® learning model?

BARBARA: Safety Smart® is driven by a guiding principle — unintentional injuries can be avoidable and preventable through Safety Smart® choices. By teaching Safety Smart® choices we begin to build a consciousness and knowledge which children draw upon to help them make better life-sustaining choices. Combining thoughtful decisions with a curriculum-based approach, children are taught safety in the same manner in which they are taught reading, writing and math.

Q: Can you share examples of Safety Smart® choices?

BARBARA:  Safety Smart® choices focus on the cause of the injury and safeguarding against that injury. For example, the Safety Smart® choice of not playing with matches will help avoid the start of a fire, using hand rails will help avoid a fall, washing your hands will help avoid the spreading of germs and wearing a life jacket will help avoid drowning.

Q: How is UL working to get kids “Wild about Safety”?

BARBARA: By arming our employees, business partners, teachers, parents, grandparents and essentially all people with Safety Smart® materials! These Safety Smart® Ambassadors share reassuring, clear and confidence-building messages with children in the classroom, at camp, scouting and youth group meetings, and community events — anywhere children are gathered. They are helping to empower children to be safety advocates, safety scientists and Safety Smart®.

Q: How can people learn more about the Safety Smart® materials?

BARBARA: Visit to access Safety Smart® operating guides, activities and education videos. Additionally, the website is a place where children can play interactive games and learn about the latest in educational safety and global safety news. The site can be accessed via desktop, tablet and mobile devices.