And the Enemy of Safety is? … Humans!

clip_image002One of the sad aspects of zero language and discourse are its by-products.

The only trajectory of zero and its tandem fixations, numeric and metrics, is to demonize humans as the enemy of safety. Such is an industry that has no idea what to do about human fallibility except drift into a psychosis of fallibility denial ( We have seen this recently at a number of safety conferences and symposia. (People send me lots of this stuff and its simply depressing how dumb the industry evolves). Surely intelligence and critical thinking should be a foundation for being professional?

So here are some of the latest contributions from a conference of course focused not just on zero but Triple Zero! Ah, when one zero is not enough! Of course captured in super dumb iconography with an image of a heart inside a brain! Ah that computer metaphor pushed by STEM comes up again and again. Human emotions are the problem and must be controlled. A sure sign that the presenter has not a clue about human emotions. And then in text ‘social trust’. Ha! With zero language there can never be social trust. The lack of professional intelligence is astounding.

imageParticipants at the safety conference were asked to put post-it notes under a range of sub-headings attached to each mantra and some classics serve as an indictment of the industry.

Here’s one amongst many. Remove humans from workplaces and replace with robotics.

Ah the olde human factor is the enemy caper. How crazy is this? We all know AI can’t learn, because it cannot be programmed with fallibility, essential for learning ( ). But what is more scary about the kinds of comments that went up on the board is a clear view that humans are the problem. The opposite is the case. The mystery of human brilliance, creativity, innovation, ingenuity, bricolage and invention are a testament to the necessity of fallibility in human being and the criticality that Risk Makes Sense ( ).

clip_image006Here is another classic from the safety conference (but there are dozens). The enemy of safety is ‘wreckless workers’ and workers who ‘don’t pay attention’. Amazing stuff when the industry doesn’t even know what paying attention is ( But what is more worrying is the continued trend in blaming and simplistic thinking about humans.

This is clearly what pervades the industry as this kind of stuff gets sent to me weekly. This is what evolves in an industry with a global mantra of zero ( that claims to be professional but has a curriculum that teaches the opposite ( When you fall in love with zero ( all critical thinking stops. Just keep counting injuries and carry on with the delusion that perfection is achievable, the gods will be pleased.

At a symposia recently it was posited that safety and resilience were ‘a thing’, a capacity object that could be ‘controlled’, ‘defended’ and ‘leveraged’. This was accompanied with military and engineering metaphors to shine a light on ‘human factors’. This apparently was doing safety ‘differently’. When a human is made an object in a system, they will never be viewed as fallible persons.

How interesting, and at what safety conference has there ever been a discussion of human personhood? At what safety conference was there a discussion about fallibility? At what safety conference was there a presentation on the nature of human consciousness? At what safety conference was there a discussion about what defines professionalism? At what safety conference was there a discussion about ethics and why none of this zero stuff can ever be ethical or professional? No, no, no, let’s trot out zero once again and trawl through the entrails of a dying carcass and wonder why nothing improves.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

Latest posts by Dr Rob Long (see all)

Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

6 Replies to “And the Enemy of Safety is? … Humans!”

  1. Hi Rob, there is much meaning contained within the phrase “the delusion that perfection is achievable”. If Zero is possible and therefore desirable why go down? Why not go up? If it is possible to get everything right why are the same organisations not aiming for 100% profit or success or whatever? If it comes back that that is unrealistic why is it considered Zero is not unrealistic? Is it because the conceit is that the plan, organisation, set-up is near perfect because of who is responsible but the execution is imperfect and hence mishaps and accidents occur because those doing the work are stupid, lazy, uninterested. But if your thinking is done for you why engage?

    1. Of course Charles. All the more demonstration that this ideology is a faith/belief. So despite all the claims to scientific thinking in the sector it decides to refute all the evidence to the contrary and believe in perfection.
      I wonder when some moron will come out and in the face of climate change say their goal for Australia is zero bushfires?

    1. Bernard, the whole WHS curriculum prepares safety people for this delusion. It then politicises its knowledge so that it remains uncontestable and shifts any hope of thinking into demands for loyalty to the club.

  2. A recent incident on a work site i look after where a forklift operator struck low height racking. When investigating the incident only thing i said to my fellow human forklift operator was are you OK and I’m not here to blame you, we are human, “accidents” can and will happen.
    No one was hurt, investigation closed

    1. Well done Shane. The inevitability of accidents and fallibility is only a problem for Safety, the rest of us accept this and pay our insurance policies.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below