Objective This paper proposes definitions of safety and safety promotion. They apply both to unintentional and intentional injuries or violence. Method These definitions are the result of a consensus reached over a two-year period through a variety of activities involving nearly 50 experts from different sectors (public security, transportation, justice, health and social services, sports and recreation, municipalities.). Results Safety has been defined as a state in which hazards and conditions leading to physical, psychological or material harm are controlled in order to preserve the health and well-being of individuals and the community. Four basic conditions are regarded as essential to achieve safety in a community. Safety promotion was defined as a process that leads to the development and maintenance of those basic conditions. This process involves various actors and may be applied at various levels of intervention. It may put into contribution both environmental and behavioural modifications. Discussion Common operational definitions of safety and safety promotion can facilitate collaboration among those concerned with safety enhancement (e.g., public safety, health and social services, transport, justice, municipalities, etc.) by describing more precisely the goals they are all trying to achieve and by making possible a better understanding of the potential contribution of each sector and of the common areas where they can collaborate most effectively.