I recently did a video with reference to the word ‘ontology’.
I find it unusual in Safety that whenever an unfamiliar word is used, some respond with a keen interest to learn and others respond with negativity as if unfamiliar text is evidence of some kind of academic ‘psycho rhetoric’. It is a shame that there is such a distain for learning by Safety and that in general, anything labelled ‘academic’ is somehow determined to be irrelevant.
Then as follows the old chestnut of ignorance: ‘have you ever worked in safety?’, have you ever walked on site?’, ‘have you ever spoken to workers?’, such is the naïve correlation constructed in binary opposition between theory and practice. Furthermore that language cannot be different for different contexts.
In a similar way Safety has also created a general distain for the notion of philosophy (the love of wisdom). We see this evidenced in the AIHS BoK.
It is easy to experience this, just put up some element of theory or philosophy of safety on Linkedin and out pop the crusaders, the protectors of safety. The same group deem any criticism of safety as ‘bashing’ or similar. Of course, critical thinking is an essential skill developed from welcoming a study of philosophy and ethics.
The word ‘ontology’ is simply the word to describe the study of human ‘being’. It’s just like stating that the word ‘behaviour’ means ‘doing’. Hmm, Safety isn’t afraid of that word?
It is important to know one’s theory of being because it is from a worldview that methodology develops methods.
A method often hides a methodology (a philosophy of method).
There is no such thing as a neutral or objective method.
So, in Safety, we often see methods (SWMS, risk assessments, matrices, iCam, TapRooT, checklists, systems etc) but no articulation of the methodology that manufactures the method.
In this way Safety enacts the philosophy of others who designed the method, whilst at the same time showing no interest in the hidden methodology of the designer. Such an approach to knowledge and doing has a philosophical name: ‘Naïve Realism’.
There can be no separation of doing from being.
All behaviour emerges from a worldview, there is no neutral or objective behaviour, neither is there any neutral or objective methodology (philosophy).
All methods have by-products and trade-off as determined by the hidden philosophy embedded in a method.
If one chose to undertake an incident investigation using the iCam method, one also accepts the assumptions, ethics and methodology that underpins such a method. iCam is a very inadequate method for undertaking an investigation but has been made the industry standard because it anchors well to the Materialist and Behaviourist philosophies that are its foundation.
The same can be applied to other methods such as Useability Mapping. This method accepts a philosophy (Cognitivist view) of learning but never declares it.
Before one adopts a method in safety, how many ask questions about its underlying methodology? Its underpinning philosophy?
Such questioning reveals the trajectory of the method. Knowing the philosophy enables an insight into the trajectory of the method. This is why the Deontological ethic (not articulated) that drives the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics is NOT owned. But we know that such an ethic manufactures brutalism.
Similarly, if one accepts the method of something that espouses ‘learning’, how many question the learning methodology of the method? And yet, where in any place in safety that espouses the word ‘learning’ is there an articulation of what it means and how it is defined?
In all of these examples the practical reality is quite simple: ‘being determines doing’.
Then when someone experiences the brutalism of a method as a by-product, all are surprised, because there was no interest shown in the methodology at the outset.
How surprised were many when Putin invaded Ukraine yet, we now see that being determines doing.
How surprised some were when they saw the method of Robodebt and its by-product in brutalism, yet the philosophy that created it was very clear. Being determines doing. The philosophy (Neo-liberalism) behind Robodebt is explained well in the Book Freedom to Harm.
No-one should be surprised after seven inquiries into FIFO and DIDO methods and their massive harm in mental health and suicide (https://safetyrisk.net/mental-health-risk-and-safety-part-2/) that being determines doing. FIFO and DIDO is driven by the same philosophy (Neo-liberalism) outlined in the book Freedom to Harm. How bizarre that organisations that use FIFO and DIDO also foster zero ideology. From that point what follows is all ‘smoke and mirrors’.
Neo-liberalism (methodology) constructs the method (Robodebt). Being determines doing.
FIFO and DIDO foster mental health and suicide. Being determines doing.
How strange then this industry of safety that has a psychosis with behaviours but never wants to know anything of the ethic/philosophy that fosters and enables harm.
No wonder Safety doesn’t want to know about the driving ideology and ethic that underpins Zero. Then out comes the surprise when people are brutalised by its methods. Similarly for BBS.
When brutalism is the by-product of the method, one ought to go back to the methodology and there the cause will be found, happily accepted by those who have no interest in theory as a cause of practice. Being determines doing.