A Parallel Universe in Safety
I remember as a kid listening to my mother speak to other people about her marriage and often saying habitually ‘never a cross word’ (between her and Dad). I used to wonder if we lived in the same household because, that was not the reality. I am sure my Mum must have believed it but I lost count of disputes, ‘cross words’, raised voices and arguments, which is pretty normal for a house with 2 parents and 6 teenage children. I used to wonder why Mum projected this unreality on others as if to say, ‘look I have the perfect marriage’. I’m sure it intimidated other people and such language puts on quite a show, but it was totally unreal.
I saw a website this week from an energy and logistics company with thousands of employees bragging on their website that they had not had a lost time injury in 10 years. Why would you want to speak such bulls#*t to people? Of course, here it was all encapsulated in the nonsense language of ‘zero harm’ and ‘all accidents are preventable’. In what parallel universe does such safety nonsense make sense? Why would you want to speak such rubbish to people?
On the website it says ‘We’re dealing with heavy equipment, drill rigs, excavators, potential exposure to chemicals and flammables and, of course, people. So when it comes to safety we have to be on top of our game and share the learnings’. And what can one learn in such a perfect universe??? What kind of organization with thousands of fallible people undertaking high-risk tasks thinks that presenting such delusional language is helpful to anyone? This is the kind of nonsense that zero vision fosters.
It is normal and healthy to admit fallibilities and learn from them (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ). It’s much more helpful and human to learn to be resilient through fallibilities and struggles than to imagine some dream world where there is ‘never a cross word’. I have been married for 43 years and am no expert on the subject of marriage but the idea that I have a better marriage than someone else based upon longevity is nonsense. There is no causal correlation between years of marriage and quality of marriage just as there is no causal correlation between LTIs and safety. Indeed, the pain and struggles of relationships are what relationships are all about. Wrapping a relationship up in a bubble of perfection is not a relationship. How would you ever experience love and forgiveness if relationships were perfect?
The absence of lost time injuries and incidents means that one exists in an organization that is becoming fragile (http://kgt.bme.hu/files//BMEGT30M400/Taleb_Antifragile__2012.pdf ). The absence of incidents and LTIs is not good for organisations or humans. In fallibility, incidents and accidents are inevitable. The language of ‘all accidents are preventable’ is fictional nonsense that suits a science fiction novel rather than reality. The denial of fallibility is delusional and an indication of a mental health disorder (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise ). We gain nothing as humans by speaking bullsh#t to people. What is more, people who listen to such nonsense know what it is, bulls#t!
What fallible humans need more than anything is to develop resilience in the face of pain, suffering and harm. To propose that harm is bad or that risk is bad only belongs to the delusional annals of the zero vision agenda. There is no vision in perfectionism. There can be no professionalism in zero. There is no hope for humans in zero ideology. There is no empathy, love, trust, learning and care in perfectionism nor in such discourse.
In the real world where randomness is real, where things go bump in the night the denial of harm and death has no place. In real life where suffering is normal, the struggle and pain of everyday existence of fallible people is healthy, speaking nonsense to people is unhelpful. It does no good to anyone to deny human vulnerability, fragility and fallibility. Speaking otherwise totally discredits any safety message and fosters an unethical view of reality.