When thinking about hazards one needs a transdisciplinary view. Unfortunately you won’t get such a view from the AIHS BoK on Hazards. It is of course no surprise that the AIHS BoK claims to have explored such a view eg. ‘The multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature of OHS created inherent difficulties in defining the core knowledge’ (p.3 AIHS BoK Introduction). However, the AIHS BoK is not a good example of transdisciplinary. I will demonstrate this later in this blog. However, it is good that the BoK is open to criticism and is not locked in concrete, in that way a blog such as this could contribute to the BoK and be understood as a positive.
One of the benefits of a transdisciplinary view is that one gets to embrace a very broad mode of thinking about things, one engages with those outside of one’s own discipline. The opposite of transdisciplinarity is zero.
When one is locked into one’s own discipline, it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Indeed, it is only in conversations of learning with other worldviews that we realize the constraints of our own worldview. The opposite of conversation is zero.
One doesn’t really learn just how limited one’s body of knowledge is until such a transdisciplinary approach is tackled. And, there can be no transdisciplinary view in safety = zero, the global mantra for safety (http://visionzero.global/node/6) and the AIHS is a signatory to that non-vision.
To read more on the reality of transdisciplinarity you could start here:
- Brown, V., and Harris, J., (2014) The Human Capacity for Transformational Change, Harnessing the Collective Mind. Earthscan, London.
- Brown, V., Harris, J., and Waltner-Toews, D., (2019) Independent Thinking in an Uncertain World, A Mind of One’s Own. Earthscan, London.
So, to illustrate the problem with a closed disciplinary view lets take a look at the AIHS BoK chapter on Hazards but other chapters offer similar criticism.
There is no discussion in the AIHS BoK chapter on Hazards on the imagination or even the use of the language of ‘imagine’ or the word ‘image’. When one’s discipline is constrained by the STEM-only worldview then the idea of imagination receives no mention. Yet, imagination is central to any discussion of hazards. The hazard you know is not the one that will cause harm, it’s the hazard you can’t imagine that is the killer. The practice of imagination and fostering imagination is opposed by zero. The way of zero is compliance a sure de-motivator for the imagination.
The foundation for critical thinking about hazards is held in a better knowledge of the imagination not in the counting of objects.
Of course, in line with the STEM-only worldview the word ‘energy’ appears more than 30 times in the BoK on Hazards? What does this say? In what way does an object release its energy? How is the energy of a hazard ‘enacted’? In what way does an object ‘store’ energy?
Why this fixation with ‘damaging energies’ (https://safetyrisk.net/causation-concoctions/ )? One can’t ‘imagine’ damage caused by an object without an active and mature ‘imagination’ in risk intelligence? I guess the imagination in the model is in this strange space between the ‘energy’ and the ‘recipient’ called ‘the space transfer mechanism’? If it is, then it gets no mention.
The word ‘control’ is also frequent in the chapter on Hazards and yet the imagination required to see and develop such controls is not. Such is the shortsightedness of a mono-disciplinary view.
In order to learn and practice human imagination we need to step outside of the STEM-only safety discipline. We might even need to tackle the non-measureables of Poetics. Whilst imagination can come to some people naturally, for most of us it needs to be practiced and exercised. Maybe in zero-land hazard learning comes by magic?
But there is another problem with mono-disciplinarity. In the STEM-only worldview one gets caught up in ‘scientific method’ and empiricism yet to be more intelligent about hazards requires less empiricism. Eg. on p.11 of the BoK chapter on Hazards it states ‘the fundamental test as to whether something is a hazard is that if it is eliminated there is no risk’. So, if you can’t see the hazard then there is no hazard, therefore no risk??? Just because one cannot see something doesn’t mean it’s not there. One needs imagination to step away from raw evidence and attributions and the delusions of absence to imagine potentials and possibles. Oh, we had no injuries today, we must have been safe!
This challenge of imagination surfaces in the BoK chapter on Causation too that states: ‘If safety management is effective, then there should be an absence of accidents. Conversely, if accidents are occurring then effective safety management must be absent’ (p.1). Again, this brings us back to the criticality of the imagination. Safety is determined by zero. Unfortunatley, zero means nothing without the ability to imagine beyond a number.
Here is how imagination really works on the ground of safety: When we get together with a group of workers and seek discussion about the hazards in approaching work and associated risks we begin a process of shared imagination. We think about the work ahead, share past experiences and precautions but most importantly we discuss potentials and possibilities! Interestingly the language of possibilities is not in the language of the BoK Chapter on Hazards either. The word ‘possible’ is only mentioned once in the BoK chapter on Hazards yet, possibles, probables, practicables, plausibles and potentials are the foundation of safety.
There ain’t no safety without the 5 Ps.
If one cares about hazards then one needs a transdisciplinary view to venture out from the STEM-only enclave to build a body of knowledge that might actually help workers tackle risk. The concept of ‘helping’ is also not discussed in the chapter, even though ‘shared imagination’ is an act of helping other ‘see’ hazards. Perhaps people get hurt at work because they can’t ‘imagine’ the risk.
Leadership in risk, is leadership with imagination, this is what constitutes a vision for safety.
Imagination is the work of vision but unfortunately the opposite of vision is zero vision. Zero is the ideology that narrows and shuts down conversation, all that matters is the absence of injury. Once you believe in zero and compliance why ask questions? What have a conversation? Zero is proof of safety.
Perhaps zero is the greatest hazard of all to this industry that makes no mention of this global mantra in its BoK yet it is its guiding shibboleth.