Balance in Risk and Safety
Safety in its short history has become a lopsided discipline dominated by STEM-only thinking exemplified in Behaviourism, Positivism and Engineering discourse. This has led to an objects focus evident in curriculum and Body of Knowledge that ignores many human aspects and person-centric approaches to organizing.
When we introduce people to the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) we often introduce them to Mandala symbolism (https://www.invaluable.com/blog/what-is-a-mandala/ ). The symbolism of the mandala shows graphically how various extremes and forces oppose each other and the balance and dialectic between those opposites. The dialectic middle is often named as a ‘third way’. Mandala symbolism has been used for millennia to present oppositions and this dialectical third way. Unfortunately, most people in risk and safety resist the dialectic or third way because it is a position held in tension, where there are no black and white fixes. This fluidity is actually an advantage when tackling risk because of its movement and disposition to adaptability.
When we do our introductory workshops we often get participants to map a mandala of the oppositions in their organization that challenge them. Some examples are below:
It is not until one visualizes the oppositional forces within risk and safety till one sees just how lopsided risk and safety favours STEM, numerics, metrics and engineering in its worldview (https://safetyrisk.net/starting-points-worldviews-and-risk/; https://safetyrisk.net/transdisciplinarity-and-worldviews-in-risk/; https://safetyrisk.net/a-poetic-worldview/ ). This is the greatest challenges for risk and safety, to understand that it is not a balance discipline but a warped discipline in desperate need of balance.
The more Safety continues to exponentially multiply paperwork (https://safetyrisk.net/its-always-about-paperwork/), engineering, metrics, auditing and pettiness (https://safetyrisk.net/petty-pissy-zero-harm/) the more it moves to extreme and away from human approaches and person-centric approaches to tackling risk.
The trouble is, when you are in the middle of the current orthodox approach to safety, you don’t realize that you are caught in its extremes even though orthodox people continually complain about those excesses and do nothing about it.
When we help people embrace the Social Psychology of Risk we make it clear that nothing needs to change in policy. All that needs to happen is a shift back towards the middle, back to some balance.
The more extreme one embraces the zero cult the harder it becomes to let go of the extremes it generates usually manifest in bullying, pettiness, micro-safety and brutalism. These are the by-products of zero ideology.
I have a friend who is an executive in a tier one construction company and she told me she couldn’t even get the word ‘people’ or ‘person’ into the language of their strategic plan in safety. What a sad indictment of an industry that things safety is about the movement of objects not subjects (https://safetyrisk.net/anchoring-safety-to-objects/; https://safetyrisk.net/risk-is-about-people-not-just-objects/ ). This is why nonsense like damaging energies theory are so popular in safety (https://safetyrisk.net/the-will-to-do/). All the time imagining that an object makes decisions???
So I invite you to draw a mandala of the competing forces in risk and safety in your organization and see if you can envision (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/) some idea for balance.