Overcoming Safety Indoctrination
When I do training, so much of the first day is about unlearning much of the safety mis-education that has been fed to safety people by curricula that is simply nonsense. It is amazing how people are so sponge-like and lacking critical thinking in the safety sphere. No wonder when the ideology of compliance is so deified that people accept this stuff uncritically. What is worse, the regulators, institutions and peak bodies perpetuate this nonsense. For example. This week whilst in an international workshop people tried to prove that the coloured risk matrix was both objective and scientific. Of course it is neither. In Greg Smith’s words: ‘it is the most dangerous tool in safety’
If ever there was an urgency in safety it is a curricula of critical thinking. This is unlikely unless Safety steps out of its cocoon and gets to know a bit of critical and cultural theory. Somehow I can’t see neo-Marxism getting a look in or poststructuralist critique getting a go.
Captured in all the metaphors attributed by Safety as either science or objective measures is this mish-mash of religious-like commitment to binary mumbo-jumbo. Then when I challenge this in class you want to see everybody try to defend it and then admitting they have never thought it through. This stuff is never questioned by the safety sector. And the curriculum just keeps perpetuating it.
Just look at what plagues the safety curricula and all of it needs to be eradicated:
- Binary language
- Positivist ideology (Scientism)
- Reductionist ideology
- Materialist ideology
- Metrics ideology
- Eugenic ideology
- Checklist ideology
- Fallibility denial
- Bow ties
- Risk matrices
- Swiss cheese
- Safety as policing
- Monologue methods
- Hindsight logic
- Heroics and messianism
- Safety 1 & 2
- Hierarchy of control
- Crazy rhetoric eg. ‘all accidents are preventable’ and ‘safety is a choice you make’ being the classics.
- Closed models of systems thinking
- Focuses on ‘paper systems’
- Prioritising systems over people
- The focus on objects, the list is huge
Unfortunately, most safety people don’t know they have not been mis-educated and indoctrinated. Even the founders of this stuff listed above is mostly disowned by those who developed it!
The truth is ‘All accidents are acceptable’. You have no choice, when an accident happens you must accept its existence. This is the reality of fallibility https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ There is no great wisdom in talking nonsense to people. Acceptance is the first stage in building resilience and the final stage in the psychology of grief.
We must accept accidents rather than delude ourselves they will not happen. I wonder how many zero crusaders buy insurance, an instant admission that they don’t believe in zero. Zero requires a special form of schizophrenia, denial of fallibility while living fallibly.
Unfortunately in the binary world of safety people think that acceptance is endorsement. Again, an indoctrinated form of logic, as idiotic as the question ‘how many people do you want harmed today?’. When we demolish this nonsense in training everyone is surprised, they have never heard of any of this before. Such is the deficit mis-education in safety.
After two days of challenging many of these sacred cows it is amazing how liberating it is for safety people to become critical thinkers. Now, they can venture forth with no checklist and think, converse and observe with the blinkers off! Then, in comes the feedback, they see new ways of tackling risk, new ways of engaging people and new humanising ways of tackling risk.