How the Secular is Made Sacred In Safety
The work of helping others, listening and conversation is not a sacred activity but should be an everyday activity and one that safety people need to do well. The foundation of good safety is not controlling others in our image but rather listening to others so they can decide how they tackle risk. After all, safety is not work but rather an outcome of work. Safety is an outcome of a method not an end in itself. When safety is concocted as both method and outcome it is made more than itself. When safety is made into an ideological myth eg. ‘safety saves’ or ‘safety heaven’ (https://safetyrisk.net/heaven-n-hell-and-the-safety-religion/) it takes on the power of the sacred, when it is not. When Safety anchors itself to the ideology of zero, it has already made the secular work of safety sacred and by implication all the tools of safety are made immovable sacred objects, dogma.
To criticize any of the ‘sacred’ tools of safety then becomes anathema and so sacred identity is attributed to the symbols of safety, when there is none. Once tools and activities are made sacred dogma then anything that criticizes them becomes political fodder. The benchmark dogma in itself is not to be criticized rather one’s attendance to the congregation now becomes the new benchmark for identity.
There is nothing more dangerous than infusing objects with sacred power and attributing political significance to them.
If you want to excite the safety throngs into a frenzy, just criticize sacred objects eg. Heinrich, Swiss Cheese, Pyramids, TRIFR, LRIs, SWMS, Injury rates, Bow-Tie, Risk Matrix or any of the objects of safety that have now been made immovable dogma. The taboos of safety have been attributed with sacred power so that compliance becomes the test of political membership. Even though each one of these symbol/myths are meaningless they have been given meaning by an industry begging for relevance and significance. In themselves none of these myths keeps one safe.
Most people in the workplace understand safety to be a small part of existence, Safety’s self-understanding framed by zero has been made into a god. We see this in the latest Spirit of Zero (https://safetyrisk.net/the-spirit-of-zero/) video where divine healing through zero restores the injured to wholeness. The zero god brings healing and restoration in a secular world that doesn’t believe zero.
If you want to understand the nature of making things sacred the following will help:
Douglas, M., (1966) Purity and Danger, An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Ark, London. (https://monoskop.org/images/7/7d/Douglas_Mary_Purity_and_Danger_An_Analysis_of_Concepts_of_Pollution_and_Taboo_2001.pdf)
Eliade, M., (1957) The Sacred and Profane, The Nature of Religion. Harvest, New York. (https://monoskop.org/images/b/b1/Eliade_Mircea_The_Sacred_and_The_profane_1963.pdf)
I warned years ago in a book called The Love of Zero (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/for-the-love-of-zero-free-download/) where the pursuit of zero ideology would lead. The title of the book intimates that the love of zero as an ideology then becomes as god, clearly demonstrated in the language, symbols and videos often paraded on this blog site about zero. The Spirit of Zero video is a classic example of the sacralising nature of zero. Whenever one pursues the impossible, the infallible and infinity, one must move into the sacred space. Zero and infinity are the same.
The symbol on the cover of the book shows a person jumping into nothing, the void. Ah, but if you have enough faith in zero, you can see the landing that others cannot. O yee of little faith, zero will make you whole. It will wash down you like a pulsing baptism as conveyed in the Spirit of safety video. Safety no longer is an everyday activity of simple conversation, helping and listening, it is now the stuff or heroes and heroines cause only they know how to use the sacred tools amidst the profanity of non-compliant workers.
Just have a listen to any of the speeches made about zero (https://safetyrisk.net/videos-on-zero-grab-your-bucket/) and they are full of statements of belief/faith required to accept zero. What is usually the case, the speaker often states that zero is an impossible goal then commands that it must be ‘believed’ in order to enact its power (https://safetyrisk.net/believe-the-impossible-and-speak-nonsense-to-people/ ). This is then followed by the nonsense mantra ‘all accidents are preventable’ and repeated until it becomes true for the believer. Of course, once this mantra becomes sacred all non-believers can be marginalized, judged and demonized as people of non-faith.
Meanwhile back in the real secular world, if you want to do safety that works (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/) one just has to learn how to care, help, listen and converse about risk. If you dump all of the sacred cows of safety and they all disappeared into nowhere, nothing would change. All of the mumbo jumbo attributed as sacred (https://safetyrisk.net/calculators-matrices-and-mumbo-jumbo-risk-assessment/) is nothing more than myth. But once sacred tools are made divine everything that follows is filled with political fear and the world will end without the heroes of zeros, as high priests of safety, protectors of dogma, ensuring salvation.
Brent Charlton says
Many “golden calves” in safety, aren’t there? I was viciously attacked on facebook for the simple statement that a pre-use ladder safety checklist was ridiculous, would be a tick and flick exercise and did nothing to prove the ladder was in good condition.
Robert Long says
Golden calves, love it. That would be where the idol in idolatry comes from.
Lukman Nulhakiem says
safety is zero, but it requires 100% commitment.
Rob Long says
Safety is zero? What a strange statement. Safety is a qualitative state not a number. This aphorism is the kind of thing spruiked by Safety that has no meaning.
Bernard Corden says
“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves and our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions” – Edward R Murrow
Rob Long says
How strange this industry that uses poetic language top explain its fixation with numbers. So aim for infinity and be happy you didn’t get there, the moon will do. Safety gobbledygook for beginers: speak nonsense to people and hope they don’t ask questions.
Brian Darlington says
Hi Rob, great blog and definitely a née for being more caring in risk and safety. I have received many positive comments about the change highlighted in the book “It Works“ as well as the tools developed. Cheers Brian
Rob long says
Unfortunately all safety has is zero!
It has 1% now
Rob long says
1% of zero is zero
Just got told I should aim for the stars and if a can’t make it then at least I hit the moon – might tell that to the road gang I’m meeting with tomorrow, that’ll inspire them to make safer choices