No-one in safety seems to show much interest in the nature of consciousness or about the unconscious. One thing is for sure, trying to locate the unconscious or consciousness in the brain is a lost cause. The brain-as-computer metaphor doesn’t serve us well in understanding human judgment and decision making. Human decision making is neither like a computer nor any other mechanized metaphor. Consciousness is about ‘being’ and ‘living’ in our full embodied and social state, we are not the sum of behaviors or just the sum of cognitions. If you are interested in human consciousness there is a wealth of reading, some of these may be a good start.
· Ginot, The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious
· Chalmers, The Character of the Unconscious
· Jasanoff, The Biological Mind
· Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens
· Thompson, Mind in Life
The mythologies of Behaviorism and Cognitivism that drive the risk and safety industry simply direct the safety search engine to the wrong place. If one wants to understand why people do what they do neither Behaviorism nor Cognitivism will be of much help. Pursuing this search will generate some neat and tidy answers to the wrong question. Humans are not a computer on top of a body. Safety doesn’t improve by reprogramming the brain nor by moving behaviours.
When an incident happens and someone says ‘I wasn’t thinking’ they are speaking accurately. 95% of all human decisions and actions are made in a semi-conscious or fully unconscious state. We develop heuristics and habits so we don’t have rationally ‘think’. Most of our ‘decisions’ are based on routine and implicit/tacit knowing. This doesn’t mean we are not rational in those decisions nor are we irrational but in a semi-conscious or full unconscious state we are a/Rational. I discuss this in my One Brain Three Minds model (https://vimeo.com/106770292, https://vimeo.com/156926212).
One would think that this industry that has a focus on decisions and behaviors might show some interest in the nature of consciousness but Oh, not safety. Whilst Safety and BBS love to talk about ‘violations’ and ‘errors’ it hasn’t a foggy clue what they mean nor what an error is. This is the BS of BS (https://safetyrisk.net/the-bs-of-bs/) When someone has a ‘lapse’ in concentration what does that mean? More so what does it mean if that person was already in a semi-conscious state undertaking a task by heuristic, implicit knowing? Why is it that we are perfectly safe for most of the time in a completely aRational unconscious state?
These are the questions safety people ought to be asking rather than the dumb stuff about errors and violations. What is an error? Is it a shift from an unconscious to a conscious state? OK, so call it an ‘error’, where did it come from? Especially as safety was the state of play for the last 15 days and most of that time everything was safe in an unconscious state. What state was the person in before that error? What triggers errors? Please explain the change of conscious state. Was the error conscious or unconscious? What is an intention? What is an act of will? This is the kind of language that poses a problem for the courts in proving intent and negligence. Not easy stuff.
So do a search for anything of substance on safety and consciousness and you end up with nonsense like this:
None of this is about consciousness.
I guess it’s little different from other safety language that doesn’t really describe what it does, like human error that is not about humans or error. It’s like saying iCare when you don’t care (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-24/icare-workers-compensation-insider-speaks-out/12583058). In the end it’s just spin and assumed meaning for the safety club.
However, if one really wants to know about why people do what they do, and about consciousness you have to leave the simplistic safety black and white stuff and start engaging in a wicked problem (https://safetyrisk.net/risk-and-safety-as-a-wicked-problem/) and that’s no BS.
Casting pearls before swine
Rob Long says
Bernard, I remember the encounter and offering you critical analysis and the gracious way you welcomed the learning. It is very difficult after years of safety orthodoxy to realise that it is a toxic ideology that only serves those with a thirst for power and control.
Many people write to me and tell me just how much this blog means to them and how much they value its critique and focus on the dehumanising nature of safety. Many people know that this industry has a long way to go before it will ever be professional. many despair at its trajectory and fortress mentalitie. Many talk of having the light switched on and then encounter the resistances of the industry as it seeks to fight for its brutalist narrative. The nature of the zero associations mean they must defend the indefensible and continue the facade that all is well and then at the next Hillsong festival parade out the data to show nothing has changed except the colour of the streamers and balloons.
I can recall discovering this blog back in March 2015 during research for my paper entitled Zero to Hero – Abandoning Antediluvian Accident Theory, which eventually transformed into the current edition of my book How Grim Was My Valley – The Great Safety Charade.
My intent was to have the original paper published in the Safety Institute of Australia Journal of Health & Safety, Research & Practice, especially after receiving several favourable reviews of the draft manuscript from various members and honorary fellows.
The draft manuscript exposed the encumbrances of accident theory and the tyranny of zero harm and the shutters soon came down to protect and secure the SIA fiefdom.
I then submitted the draft to this blog and it was published by the editor and received profound critical commentary from Dr Rob Long, which focused on its inherent structuralism and objectivism, especially the hard and soft systems change management binary view and its disregard of subjective risk.
The critical comments sent me off chasing monsters down many rabbit burrows and Dr Rob Long was kind enough to provide me with free copies of his books and paid for the postage.
It took me several weeks to read the material but after almost three decades practising safety, it was like somebody had switched a light on and the learning continues.
Siri Safety or Facebook Safety is merely scientism, indoctrination and counting sheep and only a fool would dismiss the power of the humanities and the arts, which includes the literary influences of Shakespeare, Montaigne, Maupassant, Wordsworth, Frost or Auden to name a few.
The problem requires a much more sophisticated ecoliterate approach that embraces cultural, social, ethical and spiritual dimensions and the power of language, especially hermeneutics and the enchantment of poetics can never be underestimated.
Transcending the solipsism of a bilious decadent and materialistic culture is a collective struggle and requires pattern based leadership. Much like democracy it is a dynamic process and wicked problem. It is not a static condition and is a becoming rather than being and easily lost but never really won.
The AIHS and the NSCA both drink from the fountain of free market fundamentalism and have collaborated with various industry associations and our state and federal governments to turn a crisis into an opportunity. Meanwhile, profit is privatised, loss is socialised and the bereaved families are left chasing smoke.
Scientific theory is a contrived foothold in the chaos of living phenomena – Wilhelm Reich
Rob Long says
Of course, the FREE Module Introduction to SPoR is also available for those who want to learn.
Rob Long says
Some links to all the free guidance on offer for those who think this is about making money.
Free Downloads of 5 Books
Free Videos and Podcasts:
Free Risky Conversations, The Law Social Psychology and Risk with Greg Smith both as podcast and video series: https://vimeo.com/showcase/3938199
Free Posters and Papers are here:
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Safety professional, oh I get it.
Andrew Floyd says
Safety Professional???……oh I see I get it.
Rob Long says
Hate for safety professionals??? Really? So critical thinking is now hate? Questioning the silences of Safety or the biases of safety is constructive especially when plenty of guidance is free. You obviously don’t do your homework!
I am afraid I have to comment again at the attempts you make to do exactly what safety tends to do. Throw proof at ppl and bamboozle them. For God’s sake man, if you hate safety professionals that much, instead of showing how bad they are, then give guidance. Or does that guidance come at a price…oh I see I get it!