According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, safety needs are the second layer of needs that need to be met for human flourishing.
Safety needs are all the needs we have that help humans to feel secure and protected in their lives.
Examples of safety needs include physical safety, fair trial, job security, protection from bullying, and strong armed forces.
Over time, humans have developed a wide array of mechanisms to thwart threats and help people live safe and secure lives. Some of those attempts involve advanced technology, while others are as simple as trained professionals patrolling neighborhoods.
Definition of Safety Needs
People need to feel that they are living in a world that is safe and that their existence is not threatened.
Maslow also stated that stable employment and reliable resources are essential concerns of people at this level. Not only must one be alive, but being healthy and having a healthy family are also important.
In addition, people need to feel that the world is just and that there is a moral code that ensures fairness and equality.
Without these basic elements in life, there is no reason to be concerned with other matters, such as feeling loved or respected by others. Safety takes priority.
Examples of Safety Needs
1. A Non-Violent Home Situation
In education, we often use this as an example of a student’s safety need. If students don’t feel safe at home, their development suffers. They may develop strong fight or flight instincts and struggle to learn who and when to trust people.
Educationally, they may also find it impossible to study at home, and may come to school tired and unable to sleep.
Unfortunately, domestic violence is one of the most common examples of a safety need not being met. Up to 1 in 3 people have been in abusive relationships.
2. Physical Safety (E.g. Law Enforcement)
The purpose of law enforcement personnel is to protect the citizens of a specific area. In the United States, there are over 18,000 law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, county, and local levels.
People rely on these agencies to keep them safe and secure. This is a fundamental service that people demand from their government in every country. When law enforcement breaks down, society as a whole will be destroyed.
As Maslow stated many years ago, without the assurance that they are physically safe, and that their family members are safe, one cannot be concerned with other issues higher in the hierarchy.
3. Fair Trial (E.g. The Legal System)
Without a well-functioning legal system, citizens cannot feel safe and secure. After law enforcement, people rely on the legal system to make sure that dangerous individuals are prevented from committing a crime.
Legal systems vary quite a bit in terms of their structure and procedures from country to country. However, the fundamental principles of legal systems in democracies are based on the rule of law.
The rule of law is a stable structure of laws and institutions. It includes the principle that everyone is accountable under the law. Individuals, the government, corporations, and even kings and queens must follow the law. If everyone is treated fairly by the law, then it helps people will feel that the world is just.
4. A Secure Job
Employment is also on the list of safety needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. Primarily this is because having a job means making money and making money means being able to buy things that meet our physiological needs.
Without a secure job, people feel unsafe because they don’t know how they will get food or pay the rent in the coming weeks. With a job, people are able to feel more secure in their lives because they can predict their future.
Participating in professional development and education is a good way to attain job security. It can help someone feel secure about their employment status and may also help with career advancement.
5. Home Safety (E.g. Security Systems)
The home is where people want to feel safest. Families spend a lot of time at home and being able to sleep soundly at night means not fearing an intruder breaking in to do harm.
Every home has locks on the doors and windows to protect the inhabitants and provide a feeling of safety. Some families also maintain firearms at home or other defenses, such as a bat or pepper spray.
Other households take this matter one step further and install a home security system. This can involve a range of technologies, including outdoor and indoor cameras, sensors on windows, password-protected entries, and direct communication with a professional security service.
Given the abundance of security options for the home, it seems clear that safety for self and family is a top priority.
6. The Right to Bear Arms (In the USA)
Regardless of one’s personal stance on gun control and related issues, the right to bear arms is another example of people trying to meet Maslow’s safety needs. Many people purchase firearms to protect their family and property.
Home invasion is a valid concern. Burglaries, vandalism, and even kidnappings can occur even in gated communities with private security. Therefore, having an extra layer of protection to ensure safety is a necessary precaution for many.
As Maslow would surely agree, it is difficult to be concerned about higher level matters such as feeling good about oneself if you can’t sleep at night for fear of a home invasion. Therefore, having a firearm sitting in the drawer of a nightstand is an option many choose.
7. Gun Control Laws
While the right to bear arms is seen by some as essential to their safety, others think excessive weapons in society is a threat to their safety and wellbeing.
There are an estimated 300 million guns in the United States, which is more than one gun per person. In addition, there are an estimated 30,000 gun-related deaths in the US each year.
Based on these facts, it is possible to argue that gun control increases safety on a society-wide scale.
While some argue that more guns mean more safety, others contend that the opposite is true. It is an emotional and divisive issue with no clear consensus.
In addition to safety and stable employment, Maslow also included feeling healthy as a component in level two. According to John Hopkins Medicine, half of all Americans take some kind of vitamin or mineral supplement on a regular basis.
In fact, Americans spend approximately $12 billion a year on this health habit. This is done with the purpose of one goal; to be healthy. Many of those people will also go to the gym, practice meditation and yoga, or run and bicycle.
The fact of the matter is, people are highly motivated to keep their body healthy. It is a kind of obsession. Unfortunately, many health experts, including those at Johns Hopkins, question the effectiveness of vitamins and supplements, and suggest that people improve their diets instead.
9. Emergency Services (911)
When there is an immediate threat to health or property, call 911. This is a service from the government and law enforcement that is solely designed to address people’s safety needs.
Over 200 countries have an emergency system similar to 911. Some of them may use a different set of numbers, like Cambodia and Ghana, but the basic system is the same.
People need to have an option in the case of emergencies. When something addresses a need on such a wide-spread basis, there must be a very good reason.
In this case the reason is that it is an essential characteristic of human beings to be concerned about safety, of themselves, their family, and their property.
10. School Immunization Requirements
A little more than a century ago, 20% of children in the U.S. died of disease before they reached their fifth birthday. Another 20% died before becoming teenagers. Yellow fever and small pox were just a few of the many ways that people could, and would, die young.
Over the subsequent decades advances in medicine led to the creation of vaccines. Still, there was a great deal of distrust of vaccines, and for a variety of political and social reasons, many people objected to mandatory immunization requirements.
The first vaccination requirement in schools was in Massachusetts in the 1850s. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly half of all states had some version of vaccination requirements for children to enter school.
The public involvement on this health issue is a testament to its importance in society and the validity of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
11. A Strong Armed Forces
A nation needs armed forces to preserve its sovereignty, protect its citizens, and further its foreign policy goals. The military acts as a deterrent to other nations, and it also provides trained personnel who can be called upon in case of emergency.
In addition, the armed forces can be used to project power abroad and support allies. They can also be used to conduct humanitarian missions and provide disaster relief.
The Ukraine crisis in 2022 was one instance in which a strong military made a nation very insecure. The nation was not strong enough to stand up against Russia. As a result Ukraine appealed to NATO and the EU to protect them.
Thus, the armed forces play an essential role in ensuring the safety and security of a nation and its people.
12. Security Cameras in Public Places
The use of security cameras in public places is a controversial topic. Some people argue that they are an intrusion on privacy and civil liberties, while others contend that they improve public safety.
Here, we can see that security cameras may secure people’s safety because they deter crime. But people who don’t trust the government or corporations feel it’s a violation of their privacy to be watched by others.
On the argument for security cameras, we can argue that they can help people be safe in public spaces, making them a safety need.
13. Seat Belts in Cars
The use of seat belts is one of the most effective ways to reduce fatalities in car accidents. In fact, seat belts have been shown to reduce the risk of death by 45% and the risk of serious injury by 50%.
Despite these statistics, many people still do not wear seat belts. In most parts of the world, there are laws that require adults to wear seat belts, but the enforcement of these laws is often lax.
This safety measure is an example of a need that is not being met on a wide-scale basis. While seat belts save lives, many people still do not use them.
14. Home Insurance Policies
Home insurance is a type of property insurance that covers damages to your home or belongings in the event of a natural disaster, fire, theft, or vandalism. Home insurance is not required by law in many parts of the world, but it is typically required by mortgage lenders.
While home insurance does not directly improve safety, it can provide financial protection in the event of a disaster. This type of insurance can give people peace of mind and security in knowing that their home is protected.
Home insurance policies vary widely in coverage and cost. It is important to shop around and compare policies before buying.
15. Life Jackets
A life jacket is a wearable device that helps keep you afloat if you fall into water. They are typically made of brightly colored foam and have straps that go over the shoulders.
Life jackets are required by law on some boats and in some areas. For example, they’re generally required in commercial boats. Some states even require you to wear one if you are paddleboarding on your own inflatable SUP.
While life jackets do not guarantee safety, they can greatly increase the chances of survival if you find yourself in deep water. Life jackets are an example of a safety measure that is often required by law.
16. Fire Fighting Services
Fire fighting services are responsible for responding to and extinguishing fires. They are typically operated by the government or by private companies.
Fire fighting services improve safety by protecting people and property from fire damage. They also provide training and education on fire safety.
fire fighting services are an essential safety measure in many communities. Without them, the risk of fire would be much higher. Most nations ensure there is an emergency fire service that covers every part of the land.
17. Child Car Seats
Child car seats are devices that are used to safely transport children in cars. They are designed to protect children in the event of a collision or sudden stop.
Child car seats are required by law in many countries. In the United States, all 50 states have laws that require child car seats for infants and young children.
These seats improve safety by reducing the risk of injury or death in the event of a car accident. They are an example of a safety measure that is required by law in many jurisdictions. With the safety seat, people (perhaps even including the child) will feel as if a basic safety need is being met.
18. Self-Defense Training
Participating in self-defense training is another example of how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is manifest in our daily lives. There are many types of self-defense training programs available.
Some focus on weapons, such as guns and knives. While others involve the martial arts like karate and taekwondo. Still other programs teach participants how to handle specific situations such as being attacked from behind or how to handle a car-jacking.
These kinds of programs are offered by a variety of individuals. Police departments will often offer free self-defense training to nearby residents. Security agencies will also make some of their professionals available, and sometimes ex-military personnel will set-up their own training services.
19. Financial Security
Most adults spend every day of their lives working. In some countries, employees receive only 14 days of vacation a year. In other countries, that number may be as high as 6 weeks. That’s still a lot of time working.
Why? Because work is the main method to satisfying so many needs. Work leads to income and income leads to the attainment of food and shelter. Therefore, feeling that we have stable and secure employment is an extremely important concern.
Not only do people work to meet immediate needs, but they also work towards the long-term goal of having a pleasant retirement. Eventually, each person will be too old to work. So, saving enough money during one’s career is crucial. Attaining financial security is a long-term pursuit, but it makes people feel safe and secure about their future.
Other Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy
Maslow’s hierarchy has five levels. From bottom to top (most necessary to least) are:
- Physiological needs – these are the basic needs for survival and include air, food, water, shelter, and sleep.
- Safety needs – these are the needs for security and safety, both physical and emotional.
- Social needs (love and belonging) – after safety needs are met, people start to focus on their relationships with others. This includes things like feeling loved and accepted, having close friendships, and being part of a community.
- Esteem needs – once people have close relationships, they start to focus on feeling good about themselves. This includes things like having self-respect, feeling competent and capable, and feeling like you’re valued by others.
- Self-actualization – this is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It refers to reaching one’s full potential and self-fulfillment. This includes things like creativity, morality, and spirituality.
Level two in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that safety and security are the primary concerns. People need to feel that their family and property are safe, that they have secure employment, and that they live in a just world with a fair system of law.
Over time, societies have established many institutions that address these safety concerns. These include law enforcement agencies, self-defense training, opportunities for employees to secure and advance in their profession, and legal systems based on the rule of law.
If these needs are not met, according to Maslow, then it is hard to move on to the next level of needs. One cannot be concerned with higher-level matters until the priorities of level two have been satisfied.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2016). National sources of law enforcement employment data. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved April 17, 2022. https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/nsleed.pdf
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Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Is there really any benefit to multivitamins? https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/is-there-really-any-benefit-to-multivitamins
Malone, K.M., & Hinman, A.R. (2007). Vaccination Mandates: The Public Health Imperative and Individual Rights. In Richard A. Goodman, Mark A. Rothstein, Richard E. Hoffman, Wilfredo Lopez, Gene W. Matthews (Eds.), Law in public health practice (pp. 262-284). New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/ACPROF:OSO/9780195301489.003.0014
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]