Investigations the IOSH Way
IOSH recently published an article on Investigative Interviewing written by an ex specialist criminal investigator for two elite UK law enforcement agencies. Then after considerable criticism IOSH released a response to considerable criticism of this article (https://www.ioshmagazine.com/2021/07/06/hide-and-seek-ioshs-response). I offered criticism of the article here: https://safetyrisk.net/investigating-events-is-not-about-brain-farts/
The IOSH response to dissenting views is fascinating, arguing for greater Transdisciplinarity and critical thinking skills. Of course, you have to look deeper into the IOSH Competency Framework to understand how things like culture, transdisciplinarity and critical thinking are defined and understood. It is quickly discovered that the IOSH competencies are about as useful as the AIHS Body of Knowledge. The focus of these competencies is on simply more of the same: technical, regulation and behaviourism. So, lock them in and ‘future proof the profession’ but nothing different and certainly no transdisciplinarity or critical thinking.
The IOSH response article starts by claiming that Safety is a ‘very broad discipline’, nothing could be further from reality. Safety is one of the most closed and insular industries on the planet. For example, none of the critical skills, knowledge or capabilities offered by SPoR are considered in either IOSH competencies or AIHS BoK. So much for diversity, god bless zero (https://www.ioshmagazine.com/2021/01/14/gerard-zwetsloot-vision-zero-leading-indicators ; https://www.ioshmagazine.com/categories/topics/management/sustainability/human-capital-and-vision-zero).
The response article lists some of the dissenting views to the II article but then gives an apologetic for the previous article giving it a purpose and meaning that it didn’t articulate. The idea that ‘the article’s advice is not about the whole investigative process – it is about how to respond to the rare occasion when someone is suspected of misleading an investigation into a serious incident’ was not declared as a purpose in the article. Similarly, ‘the point of the article is to show it as a valid technique to escalate to when appropriate’ was not articulated by the article. Indeed, the article offered no clear purpose at all in its introduction. The idea that ‘his intent for the article was to be helpful and to provide others with the opportunity for reflection’ was also never declared in the original II article. Such post article attributions were simply not present in the original. If anything, the original article assumes that Safety is a policing activity and its language supports such a view. If IOSH were at all interested in a broad view it should have critiqued and edited the original before publication. The response article concludes with some questions but does a very poor job at presenting dissenting and supporting views. If you want to know what IOSH really believes about ‘investigations’ and the role of a safety person go to the Competency Framework (https://iosh.com/media/6607/competency-framework-all-competencies.pdf).
Here are some deeper problems with the IOSH article and response.
- The fundamental purpose of interviewing and the role of safety people in follow up to events is not countenanced or discussed in either article, role, worldview and ethic are assumed.
- The response article is very much a ‘straw man’ approach. The best way to raise the level of debate is not by undertaking this kind of apologetic but by publishing an article from a completely opposite worldview. However, such a view would contradict the Competency Framework of IOSH. In the ‘straw man’ approach the original article remains validated, it’s just that the dissenters misunderstood the purpose (which of course was not articulated).
- The idea of safety people as first responders was not considered. The skills of interviewing are never considered.
- If ever there is a serious event generally regulators, police and lawyers are called in, not safety people. So, the role of a safety person as an ‘investigator’ in the II article is assumed. Indeed, even using words like ‘police’ and ‘investigation’ orients the article to a confronting, forensic approach as does the Competency Framework.
- The semiotics of the original II article has a focus on brain-centrism, the response article on mixed speech boxes. Neither semiotic tackle the very human and conversational nature of safety as a helping activity.
- The whole issue of objectivity/subjectivity is not raised in either article or the Competency Framework. Yet, in the II article and Competency Framework, objectivity is assumed.
- The IOHS Competency Framework (https://iosh.com/media/6607/competency-framework-all-competencies.pdf) page 8) uses the language of ‘investigation’ and makes absurd assumptions about the role of the safety advisor. Indeed, even the language of ‘competency’ rather than ‘capability’ assumes a host of things about the nature of learning, expertise and training.
- The IOSH Competency Framework sets out that safety people will have ‘the ability to recognise the difference between direct and indirect causes of incidents and unsafe conditions’ again assuming what the safety role is, without discussing the nature, worldview or role of the safety person. This is what Safety does, runs off on endless tangents rather than tackling the underlying ethical identity of the safety advisor. Indeed, the foundation importance of ethics is assumed not a focus of the Framework. Similarly, there is no discussion of ethics in the role of tackling event follow up in either of the IOSH articles.
- The competency framework states: ‘The OSH professional must be able to identify the full range of documentary evidence that would support a legal defence, including documentation that may not be directly OSH-related (e.g. maintenance records). This will include the taking of statements to provide supportive evidence’. So, no wonder IOSH supported the original II article. Again, the IOSH Competency Framework makes huge assumptions about the role and expertise of a safety person, which of course is not discussed in the document. There is simply no comparison between the indoctrination of a safety advisor and the education of a legal professional. Discussing legal exchange as if there is some kind of educational level playing field is absurd. BTW, the reference to culture in the Competency Framework is NOT about culture.
- So we can see in the Competency Framework the real agenda of IOSH and hence its superficial approach to offering balanced critique and ‘debate’. The response article to the II article is more about ‘arse-covering’ than genuine debate.