Dumbs for Safety

imageThere’s nothing quite like a safety campaign that doesn’t consider what it communicates unconsciously through semiotics and messaging. This is classically displayed in the Mums for Safety campaign . It doesn’t matter how you ‘spin’ the framing and priming of this campaign its message promotes the opposite of what it seeks to uphold.

Of course in the world of compliance and binary opposition of safety the following criticism will be attributed as toxicity and negativity. The last thing one can do in safety is be critical of the sacred safety cow.

In order to understand critical thinking one needs to know about the nature of power and communication to the unconscious. The real power in communication is never the overt message but the covert message demonstrated in how one organises presentation and in semiotics (The Medium and the Message ).

It is always critical in communications and messaging to pay attention to what is said and NOT said and to focus on symbols and unconscious messaging. All messaging requires consideration of who and what is omitted in messaging and is just as important as what one might consider as ‘obvious’ in a direct message. Is the next campaign Dads for Safety? LGBTQI Safety?

In the Mum’s for Safety campaign it is clear that grown men and women can’t make effective decisions without the presence of their Mum. I can just imagine the steelfixers and formworkers on site giving the men in this video promotion a roasting should they walk on site. The campaign effectively makes these people a laughing stock, including the CEO who stands reprimanded by his mother because he can’t get something right. The hidden message in this campaign is that grown ups can’t make decisions without their mother around! Poor old David needs his mum to grab him by the scruff of the neck like a child and save him from harm. Poor old Tony needs Mum to help him from a falling object.

The whole messaging in this promotion is about childishness and co-dependence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency ). Co-dependence is considered a mental health disorder when one person is dependent on another to remain in an immature state.

Even the stereotyping, military music and symbolism in the campaign is against any message of humanising a mature approach to risk and safety, where wisdom in decision making is made by grown adults who don’t need their mum around to tell them how to think.

There is really no surprise in this marketing in safety. It’s pretty much inline with other dumbs for safety campaigns like: Hazardman, the Bloody Idiot Safety Campaign, Zero Suicide, Dumb Ways to Die or the recent Safety Reset in Queensland or the Safety Gimp (https://safetyrisk.net/dumb-ways-to-improve-rail-safety/ ). Unless unconscious messaging is considered in what goes on you end up promoting safety through beasts (https://safetyrisk.net/dont-make-safety-a-habit/) and heroes (https://safetyrisk.net/i-have-the-power-im-a-safety-hero/) and all kinds of mumbo jumbo (https://safetyrisk.net/calculators-matrices-and-mumbo-jumbo-risk-assessment/) that detract from the simple message that risk and safety is an everyday ordinary activity that requires wisdom and maturity to effectively tackle risk.

Of course, when zero doesn’t work and it’s by products create an anti-safety culture one needs some new campaign or blitz to demonstrate just how immature Safety is.

Unfortunately, in the safety world any criticism of safety or deconstruction by critical thinking of safety is deemed an enemy of safety. When compliance is the god then debate is the devil. It seems like it’s easier to spend millions on this non-sense than actually tackling critical issues in risk and safety in the workplace. And, none of these campaigns work, even under consideration of safety data there is no benefit. The real outcome is that Safety once again appears childish and immature not able to grow up into the big broad mature world of being professional.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

18 Replies to “Dumbs for Safety”

    1. We were deconstructing this in the iThink workshop this week and several of the participants stated their Mums were NOT the voice of reason or care. Some suggested their Mums were hyper-emotional and the last sourse to consult.

    2. Obviously Dads don’t care about safety but Mums are the voice of reason! Please, what stereotypical simplistic claptrap! Can safety get any more immature and dumb.

  1. Thanks Rob I am having to deal with similar thing with one site that I provide WHS advice to, celebrated 2000 days LTI free last week. I was howled down when I suggested that workers will not report injuries as they will not want to be forever known as the person who broke the record. The manager doesn’t see that the message and this record has now become their religion and they idolize the the number above all other things.

  2. What an awesome article Rob – exposing this absurdity – as the (other) great man Lou Reed says…”you can’t always trust your mother” Last great American whale, New York album..some time around the 90’s

    1. Thanks Mark, when one is indoctrinated into the dumb down world one doesn’t know one is in it and soon pretty much anything paraded in the name of safety must be validated no matter how absurd.

  3. Another great deconstruction of the commercial and religious ideals of H&S, and I write not only as a Director of the family construction company, I am the company H&S Officer and also Mum, Aunt, wife and sister-in-law to some of the employees.

    1. Thanks Sue, great pick up on the religious nature of all this. When the dogma of safety becomes blindly sacred then one’s eyes become closed to criticism and debate and in the end anything in the name of safety becomes sacred.

  4. Very nice post on how power is transferred unconsciously via semiotics. I would feel safe in saying more than half those who would label themselves “Safety Professionals” have either never heard of semiotics or could explain what they are and why understanding how the influence us is a critical part of becoming more mature in how we manage and learn from risk.

    On a side note (and maybe this is a Dave Collins question) I have noticed for the past few months I can no longer link or post these blog posts on my LinkedIn account. I think I posted 85 to 90 percent of your posts in the past and I know several people who would consistently comment to me on LinkedIn (privately of course) that they either agree 100% with the posts OR learned something new. Were we making LinkedIn nervous by providing a lit path to a trajectory of learning and humanity vs the binary, mechanistic way from orthodox safety? Or is it possible I am just missing the LinkedIn button? Either way, I love reading these posts, copying them on my thumb drive and sharing the learning with others.

    1. Hi Dyno – I am trully amazed by the number of “Safety Professionals” who jump on these initiatives and proclaim them as an “awesome initiative” and wouldnt dare question the real agenda or the byproducts – perhaps a few years ago I would have as well?

      On your other question, I was having problems with the share buttons so removed them ’til I figured it out. They seem to be working again now so they have returned – thanks for the reminder and thanks heaps for sharing

      1. Of course, the constant tirade of these PR campaigns and silly discourse demonstrates that safety is not a profession. In order to be professional one would have to accept and engage in debate outside of one’s own fortress and delusion of zero and there is no evidence of this anywhere.

      2. CAE used to stand for College of Advanced Education but I only found out quite recently following a visit to a mobile phone store that it actually stands for cool, awesome, excellent.

    2. Dyno, the label of ‘professional’ its well with those who have little idea of what it means. Can you just imagine a profession coming out with a ‘Mums for Social Work’ campaign or ‘Dads for Nursing’. The problem is that any criticism of safety is understood as non-compliant and anti-safety which is driven by the immature and binary unprofessionalism that plagues dumb down safety. This will remain so as long as the curriculum stays in its current state and after every review by a regulator and engineer its culture simply becomes more entrenched and the bureaucracy to cement it in place grows exponentially. The Boland report is a calssic example of more of the same and closing the gates on the fortress.
      I don’t know how you stay on Linkedin, it simply reinforces the point that safety is light years from becoming professional.

      1. Rob, LinkedIn is a place where I drop SPoR blog posts and let those who follow me enjoy them AND to occasionally view new job openings that may be to my liking. Other than that, it is a toxic dump. And that probably is more of a dig on toxic dumps than it is orthodox safety.

  5. Thank you Mr. Collins! And the few followers I have who love reading these posts on my LinkedIn page thank you as well. I believe it is a “guilty pleasure” for many of them to see commentary that makes sense vs. the brutal discourse and trajectory of orthodox safety.

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