Leaps of Faith, Risk and Movement/Learning in Safety

imageOne can’t live in the world without movement, stasis is death. In movement we live, learn and have our being, to do so defines the nature of risk.

The purpose of living in the world is not to be safe, secure and eliminate risk. If we live and move with purpose seeking meaning in the world, we must risk. Risk is not some behaviourist reward-attraction thing. What a nonsense to suggest that if one removes the reward people will risk less? Risk is essential to all movement and learning.

Neither the Safety Act nor Regulation expect risk elimination. The Act and Regulation expect people to tackle risk to ‘as low as reasonably acceptable’. The subjectivity of this phrase frames all thinking about risk at work. Lawyers and the court system know that humans are fallible, vulnerable and mortal and so the activities of the legal system weigh up such knowledge against the expectations of the Act and Regulation. The legal system does not expect organisations to manage risk to zero!

The legal system doesn’t look at safety as the safety industry does. Indeed, I’m sure OHS lawyers must laugh at the global mantra for Safety that sets its identity and expectations for zero (http://visionzero.global/node/6 ).

People don’t chose to risk, we live in risk. The quest to eliminate risk is a quest against what it is to be human. Risk makes sense (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/risk-makes-sense/)

The purpose of safety is not to save people from risk but to help people understand the risk they take.

Of course, it is because we must risk that we embrace uncertainty. It is because humans are fallible (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/) that we know that every risk involves a ‘leap of faith’. Faith is an assurance of something we hope for, it is not something we ‘know’.

So, we undertake some of the most insignificant activities assuming the risk is safe, but we don’t know. We get in the car to go to the shops under the assurance we will get home safely, but we don’t know this is so. We can do calculations, make predictions or take endless precautions for this shopping trip, but safety is not ‘assured’. The more we commit our activities to habit, ritual, heuristics and process, the less we think about the risk. This is show risk is normalized and undertaken unconsciously. Most people when risk becomes normalized and unconscious cannot ‘see’ the risks they take, because risk isn’t a cognitive process.

Communication, process and ideology about zero simply contributes to the delusion that risk has been eliminated. Similarly, publishing injury statistics of temporary zero acts in the same way, creating the assurance that risk are being managed, when they may not.

The how does Safety enter the world of work? By helping people reflect on the risks they take. That is it. It’s not rocket science, the rest is a smoke screen for ‘papersafety’ (https://www.booktopia.com.au/paper-safe-gregory-w-smith/book/9780987630001.html ).

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

Latest posts by Dr Rob Long (see all)

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.

3 Replies to “Leaps of Faith, Risk and Movement/Learning in Safety”

  1. ………..”Zero harm or Vision Zero is dead and you are baying at the moon.”

    However the XII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Toronto, which was recently postponed does not think that way and is reiterated by Dr. Joachim Breuer, President International Social Security Association (ISSA) in the conference program……….

    “With its Vision Zero Campaign, the ISSA responds to the requirements of effective prevention measures in the new world of work and connectivity by offering a flexible concept, which can be tailored to the needs of any enterprise or industry in every region of the world. The campaign aims at raising awareness of the importance of workplace participation and leadership commitment to excellence in prevention. Since the Global Vision Zero Campaign Launch during the XXI World Congress, over 11,000 enterprises, organizations and OSH trainers have signed up to the campaign. We have seen regional launches of the strategy for Asia, Europe, South and North America and recently in Africa. We hope that the XXII Congress will take this approach a step further and make use of our connected world to generate a paradigm shift so that one day, a worldwide culture of prevention and a world without any fatal occupational accidents and diseases becomes a reality.”


    1. Once anything anchors to zero all that follows is interpreted by the binary world of safety to be anti-safety.

      Once locked in it can never been given up because it becomes deified, sacred and ideological to the identity of being safe. Safety is Zero and Zero is Safety. The pathway to salvation is zero. Therefore any injury, any harm, any error can now only be interpreted as being unsafe. You can’t dig a bigger hole for an industry than that.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below