Nonsense Goals and Language on Display
One of the things that Safety does best is speak meaningless language and create reverse goals. When one defines safety numerically and then makes up binary nonsense language to match, it makes for pretty stupid rhetoric. There is nothing more absurd than setting a goal and then counting the number of times you don’t achieve it but this is what Zero ideology promotes. (http://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/downloads/dynamic/nsw-road-toll-daily.pdf).
See an example from the Transport for NSW website (http://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/ ).
Here we have a graphic from the silly binary advertisement that asks the dumb binary question ‘What is a suitable number of deaths on NSW roads?’ Then we display the road toll on the same page showing just how much the campaign and nonsense language doesn’t work.
What nonsense language produces is skepticism and cynicism so that all messaging is ignored. When people observe others speaking nonsense and then demonstrating it with statistics, all people learn is to ignore the message. This is what Postman calls this Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk (http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/Archives/Crazy%20Talk,%20Stupid%20Talk.htm)
Of course when zero language doesn’t work Zero ideology can only go in one direction to ‘beyond zero’, ‘zero plus one’, ‘mission zero’ and ‘infinity zero’. Rather than admit that these campaigns and this language doesn’t work Zero ideology creates the opposite of what it seeks. Zero ideology just goes ahead and builds bigger holes to be bury in.
What people want is language that makes sense and goals in language that encourage people to be sense-able not language that create scepticsm and cynicism. I wonder how many Zero Harm Managers count the number of times they don’t reach zero each day, week, month and year? I wonder how much time is consumed in counting rather than actually helping people manage risk? How is it intelligent to give people a job title for something that cannot exist? Perhaps we should call such roles what they really are: Fallibility Management? ‘Hello, my name is Bill I’m your new Fallibility Manager’.