Fear of Being-in-the-World

Fear of Being-in-the-World

Depositphotos_13777113_s-2015One of the valuable contributions of the philosophy of phenomenology is the concept of Dasein. Dasein is German for ‘being-in-the-world’ articulated by Martin Heidegger . Heidegger is a controversial philosopher because of his complicity with the Nazi party during WW2. However, the philosophy of phenomenology offers insight into many of the problems that beset safety.

Phenomenology emerged in opposition to rationalism, reductionism and the mechanistic worldview. Phenomenology draws attention to the study of how things are interpreted (hermeneutics) and about human ‘Being’. The Social Psychology of Risk emerges from this philosophy (https://safetyrisk.net/man-up-safety/) as well from the existentialist and critical theory traditions. You can read more about these here: http://cfs.ku.dk/staff/zahavi-publications/routledge-phenomenology.pdf. Of course, the ideology of zero comes from the binary rationalist, reductionist and the mechanistic worldview.

The study of ideology, philosophy and ethics ought to be a foundational part of any safety curricula but of course it is not (https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/ ). This absence of sophistication in the safety curriculum and, absence of critical thinking sets up Safety as a vacuum for all binary reductionist ideologies. An example of binary mindlessness is the simplistic ideology of zero vision paraded at the World Congress on Safety 2017 (https://safetyrisk.net/no-evidence-for-the-religion-of-zero/ ). The natural trajectory of zero ideology is risk aversion and fear-of-the-world (https://safetyrisk.net/zero-vision-as-propaganda/ ).

One philosopher in the phenomenological tradition is Paul Ricouer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Ric%C5%93ur ). Ricouer is most helpful in tackling the issues of suffering, pain, harm and fallibility. There are plenty of theological and philosophical positions that better discuss disaster and suffering in our current age than The End of Heaven by Dekker.

Unfortunately, the binary theologies and assumptions embedded in the dominant schools of safety (https://safetyrisk.net/transdisciplinary-thinking-in-risk-and-safety/) simply go unchallenged in an immature discipline that doesn’t see that philosophy has any part to play in the education of safety people. This is one of the reasons among many that ensures that safety is not a profession (https://safetyrisk.net/professional-challenges-for-the-safety-industry/ ). I remember teaching the Philosophy of Education at University of Canberra 25 years ago because the teaching profession knows that an understanding of philosophy and ideology is critical to being professional.

Without a foundation of some education in philosophy, Safety is open to its current dilemma in endorsing the unethical ideology of zero. Zero embeds an ideology of intolerance and is evidenced in its psychology of absolutes. Neither intolerance nor absolutes can be any part of any Ethic of Safety. Of course the Zero Vision World Congress delivered nothing on an Ethic of Safety. No peak body anywhere has delivered on an Ethic of Safety. Any ethic in the real world of fallible people, fallible systems and fallible world must accept the necessity of tolerance in ethical practice. Ah no, not Safety. I discussed the need for an Ethic of Safety here: https://safetyrisk.net/professional-challenges-for-the-safety-industry/

One of the concepts in Phenomenology is the idea of ‘thrownness’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrownness ) that is, the idea that we are ‘thrown’ into the real world and have to tackle it with a sense of reality. To deny mortality and fallibility is a nonsense. It’s only Safety that believes (ttps://safetyrisk.net/no-evidence-for-the-religion-of-zero/ ) that zero is possible in the real world. No other activity that claims the notion of ‘profession’ accepts the idea of this absurd binary ideology. There is simply no interest in the safety world in an Ethic of Safety yet huge interest in claiming the word ‘professional’. Just do a simply audit of the Zero Vision World Congress or the SIA Body of Knowledge and tell me what the focus is?

The Zero Vision Global Safety Congress was The Occupational Health and Safety Professional Capability Framework, A Global Framework for Practice (http://www.inshpo.org/docs/INSHPO_2015-OHS_Professional_Capability_Framework.pdf ). And the SIA Body of Knowledge (http://www.ohsbok.org.au/download-the-body-of-knowledge/) are clear evidence that Safety is all about objects not subjects.

The ethic of Dasein (being-in-the-world) is about Care and Presence. Heidegger argued that if we are to be really ‘present’ in the world then we ought to be ‘present’ with others in an ethic of care. The reductionist, rationalist and mechanistic worldview which dominates Safety simply advocates measurement by numbers and a focus on objects. This is so easily demonstrated in the iconography of safety (https://safetyrisk.net/the-iconography-of-safety/ ).

I have a friend who rang me up this week because he couldn’t cope with the insane and absurd obsession in his organization with TRIFR rates and LTIs. The panic and obsession was absurd. This is of course the natural trajectory for an industry seduced by the binary ideology of rationalism, reductionism and zero. This is despite the fact that all the research and every scholar in safety knows that TRIFR rates and LTIs have no evidential value in the management of risk. Nor is such data of any value in the legal system indeed, the preoccupation with TRIFR and LTIs often connected to a lack of Due Diligence:


18. DIAGNOSIS from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

Due Diligence

4. DUE DILIGENCE from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.



I had another friend email me this week with this nonsense of ‘damaging energies’. Amazing how safety comes up with nearly every theory it can to avoid the fundamental activity essential to being a profession and that is, the helping and care of people.

Instead what do we have? Fear of objects, counting of objects, fear of living in the world, risk aversion, fear of learning and existential disconnectedness. No wonder safety is understood by many as an embuggerance on the workplace. Phenomenal.

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.

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