It’s alright ma I’m only bleeding

It’s alright ma I’m only bleeding

A healthy loyalty is not passive and complacent but active and critical

Harold Laski 1

imageThe 21st October 2016 commemorated half a century since the Aberfan disaster in South Wales, United Kingdom which resulted in the deaths of 116 school children and 28 adults and wiped out a generation. Over the past 50 years, legislation has been implemented and supplemented by the introduction of many fashionable psychological approaches, which have been offered as silver bullets. However, traditional egocentric accident theory and its many accoutrements remains enduringly popular despite its ostentatiously vague sentiments and social encumbrances. Meanwhile, the carnage continues unabated and in Australia, the annual direct costs are almost $80 billion or 8% of gross domestic product. Since 1970, black lung compensation claims in the US have exceeded $45 billion. It amounts to many hospitals and other public health infrastructure and our performance can only be described as mediocre. The comments from Haddon et al remain as pertinent today and resonate with most safety professionals. Antediluvian accident theory does not manage risk or measure performance, we are merely keeping our fingers and toes crossed and counting how many sheep we have left until the next WTFWT black swan or wild card event: 218

Farmington (1968), Westgate Bridge (1970), Ibrox Park (1971), Summerland (1973), Flixboro’ (1974), Seveso (1976), Granville (1977), Three Mile Island (1979), Bhopal (1984), Bradford (1985), Chernobyl (1986), Zeebrugge (1987), Kings Cross (1987), Piper Alpha (1988), Hillsborough (1989), Grafton (1989), Kempsey (1989), Cowan (1990), Coode Island (1991), Westray (1992), Thredbo’ (1997), Esso Longford (1998), Mont Blanc Tunnel (1999), Ladbroke Grove (1999), Glenbrook (1999), Toulouse (2001), Petrobras P36 (2001), Waterfall (2003), BP Texas City (2005), Sago (2006), Imperial Sugar (2008), BP Deepwater Horizon (2010), Upper Big Branch (2010), Fukushima (2011), Rabaul Queen PNG (2012), Lac Megantic (2013), Rana Plaza (2013), Soma Eynez (2014), Samarco (2015), Dreamworld (2016), Fengcheng (2016), Grenfell Tower (2017), Tangerang Jakarta (2017), Quinton Oklahoma (2018), Kemerovo (2018), Morandi Bridge (2018)……He not busy being born is busy dying and if my thought dreams could be seen they’d probably put my head in a guillotine but it’s alright ma I’m only bleeding. 1968

The region has also experienced its share of mining fatalities and disasters, which include: Moura 4 (1986), South Bulli (1991), Porgera (1994), Moura 2 (1994), Gretley (1996), Northparkes (1999), Pike River (2010), 6977 …………….?????

In developing countries, especially China, statistics are even more appalling and many incidents remain undisclosed. Interesting distinctive patterns have emerged from the study of disasters, which are discussed extensively by Quinlan. 7880

Meanwhile, despite the window dressing, we have witnessed a resurgence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in the Queensland mining industry. An operational or material risk has found many asleep at the wheel and the standard of risk control must be proportional to the likely worst consequence. A fragile production and protection dichotomy will obviously arise when mercenary rednecks receive substantial performance bonuses to achieve extreme production targets. However, victims and their dependents often discover that the theatre of law has little to do with the quest for truth or realisation of justice. 8189

W. Edwards Deming remarked…..There are two ways to improve figures; cheat, lie and change the numbers and don’t count injuries and defects or improve the process. The murderous tyrant, Joseph Stalin, (he was pretty conversant with totalitarian regimes and dystopian environments) was somewhat more ruthless and quoted…One death is a tragedy and a million is a statistic. Corporations have zero compassion and exhibit similar psychopathic, oppressive and socially autistic tendencies. They are an anthropomorphic fallacy, without any memory, soul to save or body to incarcerate. 90102

Transformational change will only occur when antediluvian accident theory is replaced with a transdisciplinary approach which embraces the scientific and technical paradigm with fundamental principles of psychology. It does not require tearing down the entire house and if moral responsibility is removed from law, all that remains is technical administration. This is reiterated by the loose legal philosophy of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall……….You do what you think is right and let the law catch up. Risk and energy damage theory fulfils this requirement and reflects and aligns with the contemporary guiding principles of risk management, operational excellence and unique characteristics of high reliability organisations. It has many advantages over miasmatic accident theory, which significantly impedes organisational development. 103108

The socioeconomic consequences following the global financial crisis over a decade ago are still reverberating through politics. The lumpenproletariat has experienced savage cuts to public services, oppressive working conditions, insecure or underemployment, stagnating wages and moribund living standards It has generated escalating inequality with increasing occupational health and safety risks, particularly psychosocial issues. 109112

The state rescued an ailing financial system via printing more money or quantitative easing and slashing interest rates. More than nine million families across the United States lost their homes to banks or were forced to sell their properties following unethical practices of financial predators. In the United Kingdom remuneration and bonuses for banking executives have rebounded to obscene levels witnessed before the financial meltdown whilst the nation endures its longest period of wage stagnation since the 1860s. 113116

Meanwhile the US Federal Reserve bailed out the world to protect the interests of capital and bolster the financial system. If it failed to intervene the consequences may have been much worse than during the great depression of the 1930s. Despite the calamity, there has been little reflection or discernment about the inherent failings of neoliberalism and laissez faire economics. Keynesian philosophy was vilified following the 1970s recession and replaced by deregulation, diminution and privatisation, which has created fiscal austerity and escalating inequality with a devastating impact on work health and safety. The consensus was politics was no longer a partisan confrontation and should remain neutral regarding policy and public affairs. However, the resulting Armageddon following 2008 exposed many weaknesses with free market ideology. It often manifests in disasters such as Upper Big Branch and Deepwater Horizon or the resurgence of black lung across the United States and Australia. 117129

A much more fundamental review of the role of government is required, which involves resetting market and state boundaries and establishing how a civilised and democratic society must treat its people. Following the global financial crisis the free market advocates admitted their entire intellectual edifice had collapsed. It is time for their opponents to fill the vacuum. Indeed an economy is not a society, sous les pavés la plage and the words from Tawney in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism back in 1926 resonate……….. A reasonable estimate of economic organization must allow for the fact that, unless industry is to be paralyzed by recurrent revolts on the part of outraged human nature, it must satisfy criteria, which are not purely economic. 130135

Speak up

 

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a socialist.

 

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a trade unionist.

 

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

 

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892 – 1984)

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