Ends and Means in Safety
As long as what I do gets a safety outcome, it doesn’t matter what I do to get it. This is the declared philosophy of safety ‘ends justifies the means’ ideology. As long as the outcome is zero the means to get it doesn’t matter. Wrong! The ends never justify the means.
Utilitarian philosophy is captured by this slogan ‘the ends justifies the means’ but if you are looking for a discussion of this unethical ideology you won’t find it in the AIHS BoK on Ethics. Indeed, there’s a lot you won’t find in the BoK chapter on ethics particularly under its deontological ethic. Indeed, you won’t find much discussion on an ethic of risk anywhere in the industry. The BoK chapter doesn’t discuss the unethical ideology of zero even though it is the global mantra for safety! How convenient this silence to zero that empowers and amplifies its ideology even more. Ah yes, the global by-line that we don’t believe in. Silence on an ideology is as good as its confirmation.
I’m helping one of my students write a book at the moment and his opening chapter of the book is all about the way Safety brutalizes people to get an outcome. Yes, but that doesn’t matter because the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics doesn’t discuss oppression, abuse of power, authoritarianism and utility in its discourse. All these unethical strategies are OK as long as the outcome is zero. Just check your gut and do the right thing (https://safetyrisk.net/the-aihs-bok-and-ethics-check-your-gut/ ). Can you just imagine what an orthodox safety course on ethics would teach when the BoK chapter exemplifies what Safety thinks of ethics?
Ends justifies means ideology destroys people on the way to a desired outcome. It ignores the method and the medium of the message to get to the outcome. Any form of brutalism is OK just as long as the outcome is zero. Brutalism is fine, just as long as we get zero. There is no justification of dehumanizing persons to get a numerical outcome. I don’t care if you get something 1% safer, whatever you do on the way to get it matters.
You can’t achieve and ethical outcome through unethical means.
This is the kind of crazy stuff one gets when ethics is not the foundation for a profession. This is why safety is not professional. How interesting that Safety decides to write a Body of Knowledge and sets Ethics at Chapter 38.
Places in the free online module in ethics are still available (https://safetyrisk.net/free-online-study-the-essence-of-ethics-in-risk/ ).