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A Burner Lexicon: Safety Third

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

Visitors explore under and around a massive metal sculpture at Burner-operated Big Art Studios in Oakland, CA. Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid.

Safety Third,  When attending organized Burn events, participants agree not to hold organizers liable for injury or death. The playa is not a safe place — it’s full of distractions, many of them mounted on wheels, shooting fire, or both. One attends with one’s consciousness wrapped in a fragile fleshy suit that, when damaged even in seemingly inconsequential ways, is subject to infection by outside life forms, catastrophic loss of containment fluid, or even total failure of support systems.

There are two ways to react to this state, better known as the human condition. One is to make safety the focus of everything, even if this creates an environment harmful to pleasure and personal satisfaction; this viewpoint is common in the default world where even playgrounds have become too safe. Many citizens of Black Rock City, a place where people can and have died, embrace a different philosophy: Safety Third. This rallying cry can also be heard almost anywhere Burners and other passionate humans gather, from Pyropolis in Central Texas to Oakland’s Big Art Studios.

It is not that the community encourages taking needless risks, but more that it is up to each individual what risks are needful. For the most part, each person may be as reckless as they want provided they do not endanger others — the job of the Rangers is not to keep one from doing something stupid, but to prevent that stupid act from causing too much collateral damage.

See also: No Spectators

If safety is third, what are first and second? The answer is left as an exercise to the reader.

Of course, these events still exist within reality camp which is why one company has recently begun specializing in insurance for Burners.

For other entries in A Burner Lexicon, visit

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  • MoThEr

    Ladies First.
    Drinks follow.
    Safety Third.

    • Kit

      @Mother: Love it, thanks for the comment.

  • bacon first, safety third! step two is steal underpants, of course

    • Kit

      @Bear: That’s assuming I’m wearing underpants in the first place. ;)

  • MartinO’London

    I’ve never really understood Safety Third until reading this.
    But in Europe, unlike the US, you cannot reassign your Health and Safety rights (it’s to prevent workers being bullied into working unsafely).

  • Terry G

    Historically (ie, 2001) safety was third because #1 was “Blow Shit Up”.

    I can’t remember what #2 was though. I’ll dig around and see if I can find something

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