Another brick in the wall

Another brick in the wall

An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern

Tony Benn 1

imageAlmost all education has a political motive, which promotes national, religious or social group interests at the expense of its detractors. It determines the subjects taught, the knowledge provided or suppressed and the customs and conventions students are expected to acquire. In the industrial safety curriculum, learning is akin to schooling and it confuses process with substance. It is mostly indoctrination and the information is merely absorbed and repeated. This obfuscates teaching with learning and imagination is controlled to accept ceremony over value….We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control. 24

Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, police protection for safety and military prowess for national security. Issues such as welfare, learning, dignity, independence and creativity merely reflect the performance of establishments serving these ends. Education occurs only when there is an ethical intent to enhance the wisdom and development of individuals. It requires a community of reciprocation, empathy, meaning and engagement with an emphasis on self-discipline. 58

The ultimate objective is recognizing how to live in the real world surrounded by fallible people in a stochastic environment with an uncertain future. The challenges are quite formidable, especially when careerist zombies with an obsessive focus on perfection and denial of fallibility endorse incongruous, unrealistic and embarrassing ideologies such as zero harm. This has created a climate of risk aversion and there can be no learning without risk. Education and learning requires devotion to personal development and commitment to reform using a much more sophisticated ecological and systemic approach. 911

Single loop training or indoctrination restrains progress, which inhibits maturity and wisdom. The acquired knowledge is merely superficial with repetitive vapid clichés such as reaching out or moving forward. Double loop learning is a generative process that contests traditions and assumptions and encourages creativity to develop alternative trajectories. A paradigm shift only occurs via triple loop learning, which is learning to learn. It cultivates deep intrinsic knowledge that is much more meaningful and resilient than single loop training or replication of data using algorithms via the fallacy of machine learning. 1214

Machine learning

The mechanistic archetype that dominates industrial safety with its excessive focus on metrics has generated a tenuous relationship between cultural value and statistics. This inordinate emphasis on data regards the risk as purely scientific and objective, which dismisses its inherent subjective features and many immeasurable attributes. Individuals become enslaved by the deification of systems and are rendered powerless by an overwhelming bureaucracy that generates an exponential increase in inertia. 1516

Catacombs of worthless data conveniently ignore the distinction between descriptive and inferential statistics. Feeble cause effect correlations are established in the obsessive pursuit of perfection with the emergence of amorphous traits such as apophenia, pareidolia, randomania, clustering illusions, agenticity and patternicity. It generates a chimera of anthropomorphic machine learning using a formulaic ritual. This produces a predetermined outcome with a denial of fallibility that creates unnecessary complexity, agnotology and obscurantism. 1721

Machine learning evolved from the mechanistic disciplines of engineering and computer science, which readily accepts that learning is data transference and replication. This amalgamation of humans with machines or transhumanism has no reference to subjects and its inordinate emphasis on objects implies anything can learn. Machines have no social identity and cannot dream, create, meditate, fornicate or imagine and the attribution of learning to an object is complete nonsense. The discourse of machine learning disguises an ideology of perfectionism. Its delusional misrepresentation about learning and faith in machines is merely technique and a denial of human fallibility…….Graveyards are full of indispensable men or infallible people. 2226

The objective of transhumanism is to radically alter human nature by means of technological advancement. It endeavours to move society into the next stage of human development, where man achieves super intelligence and emotional wellbeing. The rapid expansion of science and technology in the new millennium has radically transformed our social landscape with a foreboding trajectory and corrosive impact on democracy. Society has become more abstract with virtual and fabricated images that are dissociated from real world events and substantive evidence. 2728

A gig economy has emerged with escalating inequality and stagnating wages. Careerist zombies usurp the working class hero and accumulate or worship objects that merely thrill for a moment and satisfy for a minute. Many of these solipsists are preoccupied by a world of passive vicarious entertainment with little remaining mental energy to address real world problems and tackle risk…….How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t. 2930

An omnipresent fusion of humans with technology via ubiquitous iProsthetic smartphones flourishes across every high street and throughout that Hades of collective solipsism, the suburban shopping mall. Incoming calls are invariably screened via voicemail with its impersonal automated response, which creates an exponential increase in inertia and maladaptive anxiety. Technology is a patient and contiguous assassin that merely replicates its friendship towards mankind. The forces of mechanisation restrict our ability to make choices or process information. It ignores diverse learning styles and the unique human traits of empathy and free will, which allows mistakes to be confronted with honesty. This enables us to experience reality from different perspectives, which acknowledges fallibility and inspires each other to repent, recover and learn with dignity. 3132

Learning modes and methods

Many industrial safety practitioners fail to understand the contingent and interrelated nature of education and learning and believe knowledge acquisition and assessment is a neutral process. A binary and simplistic notion of training, banking and narration is an alienating ideology of oppression and fails to capture the complexity of learning. There are many different modes and methods with no standard prototype that suits every student. Many students learn at different rates and some prefer experiential learning rather the schooling, teaching or indoctrination. Most tradespersons learn kinaesthetically but are regularly forced to suffer proselytising inductions via single loop chalk and talk training. 3334

Students are attracted to various modes and methods using multiple learning intelligences, which are described by Gardner’s matrix. This accentuates the tension in learning differences via a horizontal axis of flexibility and direction v control and stability and a vertical axis of design v heart. There are four principal trajectories across its quadrants that consist of learning by experience, analysis, vision and exploration. 3537

Many students display tiered and preferential tendencies and are inclined to remain longer in a specific quadrant where they learn best. Learning is about experience, change, ownership, awareness and understanding. It also involves perception, motivation, capability, adaptation, thinking and investigation with a specific emphasis on the learner. Training focuses on the content with messages that are conveniently framed by the sender but are often incoherent to the receiver. This is a critical impediment to education and learning, which inhibits cultural change, particularly within the industrial safety sector. Site inductions and many safety campaigns are merely a data dump or indoctrination process. An understanding of multiple intelligences and different learning styles soon makes it evident there is no panacea. 3840

Learning creates changes in thinking, knowledge, behaviour, values, skills and capabilities, which cannot be attributed exclusively to the overt curriculum or single loop training. It often evolves from oblique information in the hidden curriculum and involuntary communication conveyed via strategy, actions and subliminal messages. Industrial safety requires a variety of interrelated approaches to enhance the discernment of risk with a significant emphasis on incidental, situated and experiential learning. 4142

Implicit incidental learning cultivates tacit knowledge, which is extremely difficult to transfer to other people via standard forms of communication such as talking or writing. It is defined as skills, ideas and experience, which have been attained but cannot be straightforwardly expressed or codified. In many cases people are unaware of their acquired tacit knowledge and its value to others. Its effective transfer generally requires extensive personal contact, regular interaction and trust. This can only be revealed through practice in a particular context and transmitted through social networks. It is usually captured or caught rather than taught, especially when students join a network or community of practice. 4345

A student can attain tacit knowledge without language and apprentices often work with their mentors and learn craftsmanship via observation, imitation, and practice. It is extremely difficult for students to share their thought processes without some form of combined proficiency. Learning and education stems from tacit knowledge, which is exquisitely summarised by Polanyi…….We know more than we can say. It provides much of the basis for our interactions with people and specific situations and is typically acquired through experience….If you think education is expensive, try estimating the cost of ignorance. 4647

Implicit incidental learning encourages a subliminal or reactive engagement of assumptions, values and knowledge through situated learning. Experiential learning occurs through its interface with concepts and visual representations and is the difference between conscious competence and unconscious competence. The theory of situated learning extends beyond constrained endogenous processes. It establishes a trajectory, which encompasses the contextual issues embedded within the physical environment of a particular community and is an integral and inseparable aspect of social practice. Informal learning is an important part of situated learning, which is a cumulative social process underpinned by expert knowledge and skills. These are acquired from shared experiences within the workplace, community or immediate family. 4851

Domain specific knowledge is necessary for the development of expertise and it becomes embedded in practice and is transformed via goal oriented behaviour. Its neophytes or novices become part of a community of practice and gradually move from the periphery towards full participation and involvement. The participants eventually become facilitators and the community of practice creates its own common sense or collective coherence. It engages learning through trust, interactivity and conversations, which reinforce that relationships are the foundation of accomplishment. 5255

The use of simulated and experiential learning has been a commonly accepted practice in education for many decades. It is recognised by some organisations as a critical process to inspire learning and trigger organisational and personal development. It promotes the concept of virtual reality via simulated activities to generate real learning. The activity must align with the developmental requirements or learning maturity of its participants, which will stimulate motivation and encourage involvement. 5657

Experiential learning should value the input of contributors and the process must be versatile and flexible to accommodate the experience of its participants. The simulated activities must empower individuals to accept responsibility, develop problem solving skills and discover techniques to succeed. The trainer adopts a different role and becomes a facilitator, which does not require presenting information, telling, indoctrination or teaching. Students are no longer passive sponges that merely absorb data but actively participate in the process and contribute to their own learning and education. 5860

Learning essentials

Learning disabilities are tragic in children but they are fatal within organisations. Indeed, most corporations fail to live half as long as a person and many die before reaching forty. There is ample evidence for executives that a catastrophic incident can curtail even this brief existence……The proud peacock of today may be only a feather duster tomorrow. 6163

Effective learners must perceive information, reflect on its impact, compare how it aligns with individual experiences and consider how the acquired knowledge provides alternative options or decisions. It is much more than seeing, hearing, moving or touching and rather an amalgam of what we sense and think with how we feel and behave. Without this combination we are merely dilatory participants in a passive learning process that fails to engage our superior cognitive processes. There can be no change, development or transition without the establishment of trusting relationships, which requires significant resources and skill with inspiration and support from a learning and dynamic social network. The rate people embrace change will be constrained unless its community appreciates an environment that generates trust, motivation, engagement, recognition, resilience and learning. A climate of acceptance and respect is fundamental for promoting a positive culture, where mistakes are acknowledged. This enables people to recuperate and learn without retribution. 6465

In large scale applications, culture follows structure, which provides people with a degree of certainty, security and meaning. It must also demonstrate via the organisation’s methodology that its people are supported, inspired, admired and acclaimed. Organisations which disrespect or disenfranchise its employees and restrict freedom or choice are essentially demotivating and often intimidating. The essence of change requires inclination and a proclivity to learn. It must be supported by a measurable recognition and reward process and accompanied by suitable methodology and engagement techniques. This requires an acknowledgement of contribution and tolerance irrespective of the circumstances, tradition and past performance. People support what they create and without any personal benefit, change will encounter resistance. It will be ineffective unless the change agent has the ability to drive and direct transformation and employees have the inclination, capability and capacity to learn…………………..Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. 6668

Legitimacy of occupational health and safety

Daily prestart meetings on most projects have degenerated into a liturgy of ontological sanguma. This atavistic ritual is reinforced by paramilitary safety zealots proselytising and beseeching employees to behave safely via melismatic Znamenny chants. It is usually complemented by a heads, shoulders, knees and toes calisthenics nostrum guided by internally accredited practitioners following a fatwa to eliminate musculoskeletal disorders. However, this disregards statutory requirements covering consultation, risk management and the hierarchy of controls and subliminally blames the victim. This is exacerbated by egregious safety crusaders patrolling sites like neurotic Tonton Macoutes armed with digital cameras, behavioural safety check lists and electronic hazard identification sheets to target unsafe acts and conditions. It has created a vicious gotcha culture underpinned by cognitive dissonance, blame and fear with the emergence of an unnecessary and somewhat predictable Kafkaesque bureaucratic email war. Many of these administrative tools, especially behavioural safety checklists, use pejorative descriptors such as line of fire, eyes on path and eyes on task. Qualitative irrational performance indicators generate misleading data and if you ask vague questions, expect ambiguous answers. 6980

This has opened a Pandora’s Box and is cultivating widespread disdain. Unsafe acts and negligence are not synonymous, it is a legal paradigm and an industrial relations minefield. Moreover, it requires a careful understanding of jurisprudence and a discreet appreciation of the fundamental tests, which are used to establish the tort of negligence. It is highly debatable whether such tactics are appropriate for general safety hazards. The application of similar methods to operational or material risks has resulted in several high profile disasters with catastrophic consequences. 8185

There are ample opportunities for improvement. Entrepreneurial consultants could reach out with sanctimonious offerings of chamomile tea, bamboo wind chimes, bees wax candles and patchouli oil incense burners with looped background renditions of Enya’s tranquil Celtic music. This will reduce psychosocial risks to as low as reasonably practicable and discharge ethical responsibilities in the unremitting quest for zero harm. A research report could even be submitted for a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. The regulators and shareholders would be most impressed…………and pigs might fly. 8692

Aspirational terminology such as zero harm or all accidents are preventable is more suited to scientism and occasionally appears in neurolinguistic programming or fuzzy soft systems change management processes. It is incongruous with risk and energy damage theory and such didactic language must be used sparingly and with extreme caution. A more appropriate description of the discipline when resorting to fundamentalist flavour of the month regimes would be Facebook Safety™, bullshit bingo or safety damagement. The repercussions, which include workplace injury, illness, disease and escalating psychosocial issues are anything but…….Kind of cool, reaching out, excellent or awesome if you like mate. 9399

Recent independent reviews of United Kingdom health and safety legislation triggered controversial comments from David Cameron. He pledged to destroy the health and safety monster and claimed it was an albatross around the neck of British businesses. These sentiments are reflected by several other neoliberal acolytes, including Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott in Australia and Stephen Harper, a lobbyist for chrysotile asbestos in Canada. Cohorts of intimidating evangelical safety crusaders from the tattoos to teeth ratio brigade, with jewellery protruding out of every orifice, have inadvertently and somewhat significantly contributed to their cause and shredded any remaining integrity. 100110

Project activities include monotonous routine inspections and internal audits, which are generally symbolic and often disclose only minor noncompliance with administrative arrangements and standard operating procedures. It is exaggerated by perfunctory safety observations with a profligate attempt to measure behaviour not actions. This places an unwarranted focus on insignificant issues to fulfil key performance indicators. It does not add value or target the source and conveniently diverts attention from operational risks, which avoids rocking the boat and disrupting production. 111118

This was evident during the Queensland parliament coal workers’ pneumoconiosis inquiry covering excessive exposure to respirable coal dust and crystalline silica. An extraordinary focus on compliance and enforcement has permeated the entire resources sector and generated blame and fear. This malaise with its profound American influence was extremely noticeable with Bechtel and its rigid, militaristic and adversarial regime on Curtis Island near Gladstone. This has created pettifogging with an inordinate emphasis on hard hat safety at the expense of process safety. Indeed, many safety crusaders are unable to articulate the difference between general industrial safety hazards and material or operational risk. 119123

The futility of repetitive inspections is reified by Deming’s classic red beads experiment and reiterated in the principles for transformation of management. The emphasis must focus upstream at the source with better design to reduce risk and complexity. This aligns with the intent of the current Safe Work Australia strategy, business excellence processes and Gibson’s ecopsychology principles and affordance theory. Nevertheless, many careerist zombies, hapless bedwetters and solipsistic evangelical safety crusaders cruise down the slippery slope to zero harm, blissfully unaware with their eyes wide shut. The alleged profession is imploding and self-destructing, much like Shelley’s notorious Victor Frankenstein. It has lost its legitimacy and to reiterate the late British philosopher Bertrand Russell……..All movements go too far. The dilemma is captured by the iconic progressive rock band, The Moody Blues with their 1970s classic album A Question of Balance. Its sleeve features a pensive Albert Einstein……But in the grey of the morning my mind becomes confused between the dead and the sleeping and the road that I must choose. 124142

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