Safety Commandments, Cardinal and Life Saving Rules
The popularity of Ten Commandments, Life Saving Rules, Cardinal Rules, Non-Negotiables, Heroes and Deadly Sins are a common characteristic of the culture in safety. As artefacts, they adorn many safety notice boards and work rooms. Here is a sample:
A Google search on 10 Commandments of Safety brings up 4.8 Million results. Why is it that Safety seeks to align itself with the biblical 10 commandments and the soteriology (salvation theology) of sin, cardinal rules and saving lives?
For those interested in the theology of the biblical 10 commandments, there is little resemblance to the way Safety portrays such. Indeed, the story of the 10 Commandments is about why such an approach doesn’t work. The biblical story speaks about the need for grace in human relationships and how the quest for certainty in the face of fallibility is futile. What is central to the theology of the commandments story in Exodus is the rejection of certainty and the certainty of promise and relationship. In the theology of Exodus god is not interested in setting up commandments and rules, it is the frustration with fallibility that triggers the Children of Israel to seek certainty where there is none. It seems the Old Testament god is much more interested in relationship and learning.
The Old Testament is full of such stories where people seek what is bad for them and of a god relenting and giving them over to their own delusions. One of the greatest Old Testament scholars of our time Walter Brueggemann, explains such in a lecture ‘The Seduction of Certitude’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs2aHsbUBZw.
Of course, the acceptance of fallibility and vulnerability is not something the safety industry understands or does very well. The Global Safety Congress of 2017 (https://safetyrisk.net/no-evidence-for-the-religion-of-zero/) proved that as it sunk cost into the ideology of zero. The reality is, fallibility is not the enemy of safety neither is risk the enemy of harm (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/). Indeed, both are essential to human learning.
Unfortunately, the religious fixation with commandments in Safety confirms its own confusion about ethical and professional practice. In what way do edicts, commands and cardinal non-negotiable rules help an ethic (moral system) of safety? How do such inhibit the humanizing of safety? We read recently from Greg Smith (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-mental-health-and-the-safety-paradox/) how the by-products of this regulatory-only mindset creates new and equally as damaging by-products and trade-offs. Interestingly, lawyers don’t think about the law like safety people.
So, if you are over the fixation on commandment overload, then perhaps the following articles will be of interest: