This talk considers the characteristics of safety research and practice, and the interaction between the two. As a fundamental human value, subject to laws, regulations and standards, one might expect considerable interest in the research-practice relationship in safety, and by extension, in human factors. There is, however, very little research that directly addresses the topic. Findings from related fields, and the little research on the relationship within safety, indicates that research and practice are rather separate – islands in a common sea. This talk considers safety and practice via an experiential account of the author’s work in safety research and practice, including contact with researchers and practitioners, based on over 20 years of experience in a range of industries, contexts, and countries. Safety research and practice is considered using a framework of people, activities, contexts and tools. From this analysis, several conclusions are drawn for research and practice in education, experience, values, interests, and perspectives. Challenges for the alignment of research and practice are outlined, along with possibilities for researchers and practitioners that, if implemented by individuals and organisations, could improve the current situation. A chapter to accompany the talk can be found in 'Safety Science Research: Evolution, Challenges and New Directions' (Edited by Jean-Christophe Le Coze) and 'Human Factors and Ergonomics in Practice: Improving System Performance and Human Wellbeing in the Real World' (Edited by Steven Shorrock and Claire Williams).