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The source code here has a list of RPC commands and a "okSafeMode" parameter.

What is the purpose of this SafeMode and how does it affect the usage of the client?

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When Bitcoin-Qt detects that something is seriously wrong with the network, it disables most RPC functionality in order to prevent automated Bitcoin sites from losing a lot of money due to network problems. (The okSafeMode functions are not disabled.) All versions since ~0.3 go into safe mode when the longest chain is invalid (illegal transaction, creating too much money, etc.). Upcoming versions will also go into safe mode when a large fork (valid or invalid) is in danger of overtaking the current chain.

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