The Broken Window Theory is a criminological theory that was created by James Wilson and George Kelling in the early 1980s.   

It states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.

Basically, think of an abandoned building.  It can sit for years with nothing going wrong with it, as long as it is visibly taken care of – lawn, locked, and good shape.  But break one window, and relatively quickly disorder takes over. 

If the window is not fixed, more windows will be broken, crime and issues will arise. 

The window does not have to be an actual window.  It can be any visible sign of disorder.


You can see this theory in action in your own life or community.  You just have to open your eyes to it.  I see it in housework.  In this episode, I use a household garage as an example.  I have seen it in the dishes in a break room or in a project left unfinished. 

You might be thinking, “OK, but how does this apply to safety?” 


Every time we don’t address an employee reported issue or we don’t fix minor damage, we are creating broken windows.  Over time, you will see more and more damage or issues. 

We all know that good housekeeping and maintenance leads to fewer incidents. 

The first step to improve these is identifying the broken windows in your workplace and prioritizing fixing them. 

Listen to this episode for more example and steps to put this theory to use in your workplace. 


What are your broken windows?  Leave a comment below and let us know.  Do you have any that aren’t work-related? 

Highlights From This Episode:

  • What the Broken Window Theory is 
  • How it applies to things other than criminology 
  • How it applies to Safety 
  • Steps to take to put it in place 

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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