Doing Something Bad Well
Every time I write about the strange projections of Safety or criticize pathetic attempts to remain relevant I get this strange response of ‘well at least they are trying to do something’. What a strange idea. A good example is this dumb campaign from Safework NZ on meerkats (https://safetyrisk.net/meerkat-mythology-in-safety/ ; https://safetyrisk.net/meerkat-safety-can-it-get-more-dumb/ ). The close mindedness, insular perception and lack of consideration for trajectories is breath taking. This insane idea that its better to do something bad well than nothing at all is pure safety mythology. There are a hundred reasons why doing nothing at all could cause less harm.
If you want to destroy any chance of credibility, intelligence, professionalism or respectability in safety then run a ‘Mum’s for Safety’ campaign (https://safetyrisk.net/dumbs-for-safety/ ). How on earth can you take anything seriously when safety is all determined by having mum around??? How could one expect any credibility when safety made a dysfunctional codependence and misogynist childishness endorsed by the CEO of Lend Lease? Do these people think for two seconds about the trajectories and outcomes of such silly things?
Safety would be 100% better off without any of these dumb campaigns, dumb ideas and activities that simply discredit any chance of anyone taking safety seriously. And this is the industry that wants to claim the word ‘profession’ as if using such a word makes one so. I get letters from people regularly who speak of their shame in being in the safety industry because some CEO thinks running some PR campaign will make safety affective.
The list of being dumb is extensive: Hazardman by the ACT Regulator was a classic (https://safetyrisk.net/hazardman-wont-save-you/), Dumb ways to die (https://safetyrisk.net/dumb-ways-to-die-doesnt-work/), Sexy Sofie (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-isnt-sexy-and-it-shouldnt-be/) or pickled safety (https://worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/managing-risks/pickled/). And then we have guilt campaigns and zero campaigns by regulators and blitzes (https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/your-industry/construction) all showing that Safety continues to have no idea what to do about risk. The mumbo jumbo that gets created whether branded safety 1, 2 or 32 doesn’t change, it all remains mechanistic, technique-focused and all about objects. It’s like there is a conscious campaign by Safety to remain completely oblivious to the basics.
Every time we do the Intro to SPoR Module (https://cllr.com.au/product/an-introduction-to-the-social-psychology-of-risk-unit-1-free-online-module/ ) we get astonished at just how much Safety ignores the basics in humanizing risk. It’s not rocket science:
· Ask open questions
· Establish understanding
· Thinking ethically
· Humble enquiry and
What is most staggering is that no one joining the course knows how to do these things nor has a method with which to exercise these skills. How strange this industry that would fill a thousand pages in a Body of Knowledge about safety and yet not cover off any of the basics in humanizing risk. Why is it that Safety would rather have complex computer applications, endless PR campaigns, rubbish outcomes, no credibility than undertake the simple basics in safety? No, let’s spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on multimedia companies and marketing pickles, animals, sexualising women, cartoon characters suiciding, heroes and misogyny than undertake some basics in humanizing risk. The whole enterprise is mindblowing. And yet again no critical thinking from Safety, nothing from Women in Safety. Do they actually endorse the endless misogyny in all this stuff?
Unfortunately all this ‘noise’ created in safety has the opposite effect. All of this stuff continues to discredit the industry, creates cynicism, skepticism and pessimism, generates more laughs than a comedy sketch and completely undermines any chance of effective messaging. Then in comes the safety officer from Lend Lease and tries to discuss the sense of safety while workers are laughing at their stupidity. The first time there is an incident the question is: ‘What was Mummy not there to help you?’ ‘ Was Mummy out to lunch?’ or ‘You better speak to your Mummy to get safety right’.
This is what doing bad things well looks like. The damage is done and is hard to undo. So no, either doing nothing is better than any of this stuff, its junk, fraudulent, simplistic and juvenile. The silence on all this junk’ is deafening. No don’t be critical of safety lets do more bad things well.
If you want to make an improvement in safety perhaps look to the elephant in the room, the basis Safety doesn’t want to talk about, the basics safety thinks it does well but doesn’t do at all. The basic stuff ignored by the curriculum and the AIHS BoK all get trotted out and the industry remains in this malaise of meaningless noise with no credibility.
Rob Long says
Wynand, there is nothing more obstructive than ‘fortress safety’. Armed with the self-righteousness and narrative of compliance all dissent is deemed evil and must be demonized. In fortress safety we don’t need to focus on people or methods that work, no just run an expensive ad campaign so that nothing changes. Next run a non-enquiry after a fatality and get in an engineer so that nothing will change. Build a curriculum fortress so noone will learn, the list goes on.
In fortress safety all these things you discuss are normalised. The last thing Safety will do is listen to any dissenting voice, fortress safety recycles what it already deems true and promotes sychophants to key potions to ensure there is no listening and change. Once fortress safety has been fortified then any transdisciplnary view or any sense of a wicked problem is banished to never never land.
You are so right about ‘not knowing’. Safety creates this enclave of not knowing and not wanting to know, because it already knows it all.
I believe part of the problem is the issue of not knowing what to do, and taking the easy way out. I have seen companies spend millions on “easy to sell” solutions like BBS and poster campaigns, rather than provide the equipment people ask for to make the work both safer and easier. I have seen companies decline requests to upgrade fume cupboards in a lab because of cost, yet spend inordinate amounts of money to roll out systems that make no positive difference. A lot of good research goes into developing products to make work both easier and safer, and a lot of these are not sold as “safety equipment”, yet they struggle to sell these products due to cost restraints. At the same time, it is easy to get a company to spend money on a “Zero” campaign. Companies will retrench valuable employees due to cost cutting, but will still spend millions on maintaining BBS structures and complex administrative systems. And I can go on…