A Letter To The Editor

Dear SafetyRisk,

imageIt all started with a number. The number Zero. After working 10 years in the safety business, putting everything I had learnt into practice, I started to feel unmotivated – it just didn’t make sense. I felt that it was more important that I was doing the mechanics of the tools than to actually make a change. The metrics counted the number of investigations, risk assessment, injuries, near-misses etc. Even when I moved to focus more on safety culture, the mechanics seemed to be more important than the actual culture itself. I was repeatedly asked to provide a metric for safety culture, but I argued against measuring culture. I felt that I was in constant conflict with management, because I questioned what and how we did things.

When management introduced the safety program of “Quest for Zero” I finally came to a halt. My whole being said “No”, I simply refused to use those words. “Why” – I asked myself – “Why do I feel so strongly about this?”

I started my own quest- not for zero, but to understand my “allergic reaction” to the concept of using zero in safety. I found this blog site and read articles on the subject “why zero doesn’t work in safety”. I felt an inner satisfaction of relief and impatience. I had finally found some hope in response to my symptoms and I wanted to read more. Relief, I wasn’t weird, nor were my arguments off and strange – I just hadn’t found my basis until now.

The Social Psychology of Risk gave me a sense of belonging and a peace of mind. I wrote a ‘thank you’- note to the author, Dr Rob Long, for giving me a foundation to support my inner voice of reasoning. Once the classes became available for on-line international students I was in. I took the introduction to Social Psychology of Risk and slowly my whole being started to shift; the meaning of words and symbols became so clear and my whole language changed. My confidence grew stronger and stronger in my relation with others; both at work and in life in general.

The way I practice safety now has changed significantly. I have been given three perspectives to keep a conversation, and I listen more intently to what words are used and hidden meanings. I have been sensitized to what symbols, words and colours communicate and have gained an understanding how these talk to my unconscious; both in a positive and negative sense. The greatest lesson of all in this learning journey is realizing how much more there is to learn. My quest for meaning has just started and all the people I have met on this exploration has shown me how important it is to never ever stop being curious about other people and what they can teach me.

Risky Rita

8 Replies to “A Letter To The Editor”

  1. This mirrors my experience closely as well! For years the whole “zero harm” message seemed off somehow and I always felt that it missed the point in a massive way but all the knowledge supposedly pointed someone learning how to “do” safety in the direction of zero. Then I stumbled upon safetyrisk and lightbulb moments started happening and have continued now for number of years. I too took up the offer for the free first module however I probably foolishly didn’t take advantage ( Covid 19 and sporadic work became my focus at the time) and I appreciate Dr Long is running a business here so fully understand why he chose to close down the sessions to people who hadn’t taken advantage. That said I have devoured much of what is discussed here (and the free ebooks too, totally recommend!!, ) and whilst not always fully understanding or necessarily 100% agreeing it does resonate and makes the NON sense of zero much clearer. Learning is the key to what we are seeking! I’m glad I’m not alone in how I think and I hope to share this thinking to others. Cheers!!!

    1. Thanks Jason, your sentiments are exactly how many have responded in their journey away from the love of objects and zero to humanising risk. Such a shame that safety orthodoxy is in such denial.

  2. I have no doubt that as more persons in the safety field understand that aiming at zero, the importance of understanding the concept of one brain, three minds, we will see a game change. However the challenge will be to convince others both line management and people in safety. However not an impossible challenge. Kind Regards Brian

    1. Brian, not impossible yet once someone ‘believes’ the impossible is possible it takes on religious significance and is much harder to change. This emphasis on ‘belief’ by the zero cult then leads to denial that such belief is about ‘faith’ and so denial goes even deeper. This is the nature of semiotics and why we refer to the idea of a subconscious. Zero is not an aspiration, it is an ideology. Zero is not a moral mantra but a religious mantra, it can only be believed in denial of fallibility. There can be no inspiration, hope, motivation or vision in a concept that requires one to be infallible to attain it. Zero is not a number but a semiotic. and so, it requires a huge dose of cognitive dissonance to move away from from it.

  3. completely agree with you Rita, I do not remember how I ended up in this site, but since I found this blog I feel a lot of relief by reading the articles and thinking about security,

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