This week has seen extraordinary scenes in my Territory. It is a long story but our Chief Minister went on the media yesterday speaking of a ‘Breach of Faith’. There was an inquiry held into a complex legal case and every stage in the line of the enquiry has resulted in deception, betrayal, scepticism, confidence, trust, treachery, duplicity and integrity.
You will get an idea of the problem here:
- The Sofronoff inquiry was meant to restore faith in the justice system. It has done anything but
- Barr: Sofronoff ‘breached his good faith to me’
- ACT chief minister accuses Walter Sofronoff of breaching ‘good faith’ by speaking to journalists during Lehrmann inquiry
What this gets down to is a legal process that was compromised and due process trashed. There is much we could discuss about this case right back to the initial event, the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins in a Minister’s office in Parliament House, Canberra. Brittany was an advisor at the time and everything that has followed has been suspicious, subversive and doesn’t make sense. Not to mention, the harm done to many people on the way including Brittany.
My interest in this blog is with the expression by the Chief Minister ‘Breach of Faith’, a legal expression used on Contract Law.
Of course, we can have legal contracts and a ‘social contract’ with others and it is in both forms that one ‘Breaches Faith’.
Why does this matter to Safety?
In risk and safety everything is about how to tackle risk and helping people meet both legal obligations but also social needs in tackling risk at work (social contract). A social contract is not written in law but is an ‘understanding’ between persons in shared work. Both understanding work together as a commitment to the law and, the other is a commitment to persons. In helping others tackle risk we should be committed to both.
In safety we need to know commitment to who as well as commitment to what? In a similar way this is how we understand ethics (systemic morality) and moral responsibility. This is why the AIHS amateurish BoK Chapter on Ethics is so warped. Only an amateur would mix the two.
Breaching Faith is all about psycho-social safety.
A Breach of Faith involves the trauma of being on the receiving end of someone’s abuse. This is why the abuse of the church is so traumatic because it claims to be an organisation of faith, then trashes that faith. Read here:
Similarly, Safety, proposes to keep people safe and then brutalises people in the name of zero, regulation, intolerance and conformance. Safety has only ever been committed to what, never to who!
And, there is also another form of faith we need to discuss, what Sartre called ‘Bad Faith’. The trouble is poor olde safety is so afraid of the word ‘faith’, it is not only silent about it, it apologises if it accidently uses the word (eg. Dekker’s introduction to his theology of suffering).
Bad faith refers to self-deception. That is, deceiving oneself. Safety does this constantly by accepting fallibility and then demanding zero (usually of others not themselves). I have discussed this before with reference to the work of Dan Peterson (https://safetyrisk.net/actions-in-bad-faith/). Peterson’s assertions to know the unconscious mind of others and know their reasons for decisions is a good example of bad faith. More self-delusion.
This self-deception starts at the very foundation of the safety worldview manifest in the curriculum, engineering and the many silences by safety about the fundamental nature of personhood. Indeed, Safety shows no interest in an ethic of personhood which enables the tyranny and brutalism of zero to reign supreme.
This is amplified now that Safety has entered into the world of ‘psychosocial hazards’. So, with no training, no curriculum, no skill development and no disposition to help, Safety is all set for even more brutalising in the name of ‘care’. Of course, this is never about care for who but rather caring for what? Injury rates, conformance, counting, hazards, controls, systems etc.
It doesn’t matter whether the contract is legal through regulation or social contract through being human, ethical and in moral relationship with others. The trouble is, Safety has no capability to even begin to understand psychosocial health. It has no history in it and by choosing the language of ‘hazards’ makes it very clear what the focus is, and it’s not persons. It’s always care about what!
Unless Safety begins to care about who, rather than what, all that will happen is greater brutalism in the name of good and,continued Breach of Faith in the challenges of helping people tackle risk.