Expertise by Regurgitation and Re-Badging

imageOne of the fascinating things about the Coronavirus pandemic is watching Safety morph into epidemiology expertise. I would like a dollar for every flyer, presentation, podcast, powerpoint, checklist template, toolbox talk and poster set that had jumped into my inbox on a daily basis in the last month that is nothing more than public information with a ‘safety’ brand. Isn’t it odd that Safety has to put its brand on something to make it authentic? How odd to get public information and feel the need to re-badge it as somehow unique to Safety. But this is what Safety does. This is the nature of the Archetype of Safety.

When Safety becomes the all encompassing worldview and lens through which one sees the world everything has to be branded with it. This is the nature of the Archetype. Everything then must have the adjective of ‘safety’ before it. We can’t just have work and life, it must be ‘safety’ work and ‘safety’ life. We can’t just have public health information on Covid 19, it has to be ‘safety’ advice on Covid 19. Even though it’s the same advice!

Archetypes are all commanding forces that shape identity and frame living (https://www.archetypalnature.com/who). It was Jung who searched across societies, civilizations and cultures that had never interacted with each other, and found common narratives, symbols and energies that were identical. He called these forces ‘Archetypes’, primordal forces that drive the human psyche. Jung witnessed these common human drives across cultures and civilizations in art, dance, ritual, religious practice, song, myths and poetics and, even though these groups had never exchanged with each other (eg. Eskimos and Australian Aboriginals) they all shared common drives, symbols, myths, art and stories. You can see a map of the common archetypes here http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html. Other common archetypes one sees in the Safety space include: the Hero and the Ruler. Jung explained the commonality of shared driving forces between cultures as ‘the collective unconscious’. We talk about ‘the Market’, ‘Time’, ‘the People’, ‘Society’ and ‘the Economy’, Good’ and ‘Evil’ in similar ways as Archetypes.

Whenever I write and capitalize Safety it denotes the Archetype (https://safetyrisk.net/understanding-safety-as-an-archetype/ ). Safety as an Archetype refers to no one. Safety as a driving invisible force, commands rule over all things and justifies its own existence and actions as self evidently true. It does this under the assumption that safety is a primary human virtue and that death is anathema. When the word ‘safety’ is raised in any conversation, opposition is interpreted as the quest for anti-safety – death. This is moreso when anchored to Zero, the global mantra for Safety (http://visionzero.global/node/6). In many organisations the words ‘zero’ and ‘safety’ are interchangeable.

Safety commands a binary view of life (as do all archetypes in Jungian understanding) represented in the following mandala (https://conorneill.com/2018/04/21/understanding-personality-the-12-jungian-archetypes/). It is also interesting that the Archetype of Safety is coupled with Innocence yet opposed to Intimacy. So back to Covid 19.

I read many commentaries from the safety sector that cannot understand why OHS is not the first priority in a business/organization. When Safety is the Archetype one is astounded that others don’t make safety first. You will hear many times the claim that others don’t take safety seriously. Yet all Archetypes compete in dialectic, there is no binary opposition. But, this doesn’t stop Safety, who must put his badge on everything and therefore project his binary worldview on everything against the competing archetypes of the Outlaw, the Rebel, the Caregiver and the Jester. None of these Archetypes are compliant. None of these Archetypes know about Zero. This is why a safety qualification somehow gives this industry the right to ride over everything even though it has no expertise in anything other than safety. A safety qualification is not even a generalist qualification, neither one in Law, Medicine, Nursing, Education or Social Work yet, Safety is sure it must brand all of these things as its own. Such is the power of the Archetype. Such is the power of the badge.

So when an Epidemiologist produces a public information product, the only way to make it valid to Safety is to plonk the badge of ‘safety’ on it. You see, Safety can’t be vulnerable or fallible, because Safety is Zero and Zero commands all fear, one harm or injury is now the Enemy. Safety must come first.

I once had a friend who was a fundamentalist Christian who would not do anything unless it had the ‘Christian’ badge. He had to buy ‘Christian’ bread, ‘Christian’ Milk’ and sent his kids to a ‘Christian’ school to study ‘Christian’ Maths. He had made his religion an Archetype. I then asked him where he bought his petrol and he replied ‘BP’, and so I asked him how BP was Christian and he said, ‘don’t be silly, there is no such thing as Christian petrol, but the attendant is ‘Christian’.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
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.

15 Replies to “Expertise by Regurgitation and Re-Badging”

  1. Any chance of solutions other than pointing out flaws? That seems to be the common theme for all those experts that jump on the anti safety professional bandwagon. Blast the useless safety people, yet give nothing other than cynical views to people who really do their best to get the message across to some who don’t give a toss. Some of us want the message to be about work and not badge safety in front of everything, but help us out here with your infinite knowledge about what we should try instead.

    1. Jason, many many solutions on this site other than pointing out flaws, free courses, free books, so much that is available. It is one thing to deconstruct something and quite another to propose alternatives, I certainly do both. If you want to learn about a new way of thinking and practicing safety please email or enrol. Happy to put you in contact with any number of people who will tell you how it has changed their approach, their organisation and practice of safety.

    1. I don’t follow the Christian friend anecdote. I will add kinda like a social psychologist pretending they know about the safety profession. I do agree with some of the directions you go. There are many forces at work. It seems these days people can bring and win lawsuits for about anything. Employer’s always feel the need to do something even a dumb canned poster or all these crazy contourtions caused by corona hysteria. This stifles safety pros often. Blame lawyers and fearful C-suite types, not to mention what gets managers promoted is hardly ever following good sense from below. Not sure about other professions but safety folk get over-ruled quite a bit and innovation is frowned upon. I couldn’t convince any of my past employer’s to allow me access and to spend most of my time on planning and prevention but I better write-up a good accident report so they can send a response to OSHA or Corporate quickly.. Quick story: OSHA showed up at one of our locations and was bullying us to expand the inspection before it even began. I ended up on the phone with the big Safety cheese and they said what does it hurt to have OSHA look around? I thought, that’s what u have your safety people for, I can and have brought up plenty of things but if OSHA writes it up it will be a scramble, if I write it up it’s hardly supported.

  2. The solutions are about critical thinking. How we think and how we feel as we try and understand the issues to find clarity and sense. There are no silver bullets. Our team Has spent a good deal of time talking about the risks to business continuity from COVID-19, not about safety. We discussed the workspace issues and what we need to do to keep operating, but also the Headspace and Groupspace influences. One thing we didn’t talk about was telling people to wash their hands etc. we also talked about how we keep our workplaces emotional safe havens through facilitation of non hierarchical connections and trust.

    1. Spot on Rob, an holistic response involves much more than just branding but thinking holistically about risk regardless of the source.

    1. Frank has, safety is most often portrayed as masculine. Even when discussed as female the metaphors remain masculine.

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