Psychics, Safety and Zero Quackery

crystal ball risk assessmentThe history of fortune telling in Australia is amusing. In the early days fortune telling was declared a crime in statutory law but by the 21st century most jurisdictions repealed such laws and reduced the activity to a lesser charge of fraud. It still remains a crime to tell fortunes for payment in South Australia and the Northern Territory ( ). However, fortune telling is just as lucrative today with psychic channels on tv, psychics on social media and a host of fraudulent quackery charlatans that profess the ability to tell the future. You can look up one near you.

Do a Google search for ‘psychics Australia’ and you will get over 1.7 million results. Do a search for ‘fortune telling Australia’ and you get over 16 million results.

The cost a having your fortune told in 1901 was about the cost of a film ticket, generally two shillings. By the time of her death in 1928 Mary Scales ( had earned a fortune selling her psychic powers. These days it’s pretty simple to swipe you card and get a reading with a call charge at about $2 a minute, easy money. A 30 minute call is a cool $60. A sucker is born every minute.

Despite all our advances in education and science, fortune telling and psychic quackery are just as strong as ever. What is it about this drive for people that they must know the future? What is it about this mumbo jumbo con that continues to seduce people to think that someone has a gift to see the future in denial of all we know about fallibility and mortality?

Well, it seems that the safety industry is just as easy to con. There are plenty of people out there making money saying they can predict the future with data and maths. Somehow the more data you collect and analytics you mine gives an insight into knowing the future. Information certainly doesn’t create insight indeed, its more likely that big data just creates greater confusion.

Any claim to being able to predict the future in safety ( ) is psychic quackery. What is this problem with safety that it cannot deal with fallibility and mortality ( ) that it has to deny it? Any claim to zero is such a denial. Why is it that the law knows that humans are fallible and that zero is nonsense and yet safety doesn’t? Any claim to perfection in the real human fallible world can only ever be fraud.

One of the fascinating things about the AIHS that is amusing is that it more than most, continues to sell the nonsense of zero and then denies that it’s doing so ( ). Recent AIHS webinars and conferences are evidence of its continued fixation with zero.





The AIHS BoK on Ethics and its deception in denial of zero as an ethical issue in OHS in itself is unethical not to mention other delusional claims like safety people are innately ethical and can make moral decisions by their gut.

Any desire to transcend the fallible and mortal world is delusional, selling such delusion is unethical and fraudulent. Making money out of such fraud and delusion is even more unethical. BTW a Google search of ‘zero harm’ yields 174 million results.

How amusing to see this little safety industry proclaim its professionalism through delusion and unethical conduct, hoping that one day humans will become infallible and that a future can exist without harm. Read my fortune please and pass out the Tarot cards.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
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.

21 Replies to “Psychics, Safety and Zero Quackery”

  1. Hmm… I wonder what will happen if I admit here that I aspire in my life to do no harm? That it is a deeply held value for me… one that I hold dear, and that as a fallible human I fail to achieve on a fairly regular basis. And yet, my intention informs my action. In the business world you may call my intention a vision, or value, or even a guiding principle. Is this really such a bad thing? To hold that doing no harm is a worthy and important intention?

    1. And what if you went up to a random person in the street and said: “I dont want to harm you” – I think. perhaps, they would run a mile. I think the more we tout stuff like this then the less trusting people become. With people we care about we express love rather than aspring to not hate them – how can zero harm be more of a positive aspiration?

      1. Hmmm. in approaching my family I would both express my love, and I would at times also humbly admit when I had not lived up to the intention of doing no harm… in other words … I have the odd reason to say I’m sorry. As for the organisation? I think the lack of trust is born from a lack of true genuine intention. We judge true intention from when the say matches the do… so we look for that congruence. So if you have a leader who genuinely aspires to run their team with the ethic of doing no harm…. well…. you can tell. It’s in the way they show their care day by day in what they pay attention to, in the decisions they make. If you are saying lots of organisations and leaders are just mouthing slogans … well YES…. but there is something deeper at stake here that we are failing to discuss because we are reacting to the ingenuine use of slogans. There is… a deep heartfelt desire … I once had a hard old boss who used to use “nobody gets hurt”… it was his thing… he just really believed it. Sure, now and again we didn’t live up to it… but nobody doubted he believed in it and strived toward it. Now that… is a worthwhile thing in my books.

        1. By the way… I am neither here nor there on “zero”… just so it’s clear…. but I am for integrity, leadership, genuine care and aspiration to do no harm.

          1. Wishing or intending to do no harm is fine, as long as you know it is unachievable. The psychosis of perfectionism in zero is By nature toxic and creates new forms of harm some quite terrible and unethical. Much of this is hidden and psychological and so such harm is not counted by Zero. It because I don’t want to harm that I oppose zero.

          2. Based on what we have both said above, I think we largely agree on the relationship of intention and action, and the imperfect nature of our thoughts and actions. Perfectionism – now that’s an interesting topic. As you may remember I have long been a practitioner of mindfulness ( meditation teacher). It’s this perspective which has caused me to wonder at Weick/ Hopkins/ Reason and the High Reliability Organisation cultists on the idea of mindfulness as “chronic unease”. I am more at home with Shapiro’s analysis and definition of individual and organisational mindfulness which explains the link between Intention, Attention and Attitude. Setting an intention to focus attention with an attitude of open minded curiosity and acceptance of what is really here – which informs our response. ( There’s a whole other conversation here)

            I think we are allies in the cause of drawing attention to the concerns of over-simplified and perfection based command and control visions of Zero… this kind of authoritarian view of work has long been debunked purely for it’s inability to create a culture of engagement, and reporting let alone it’s inability to create learning and flexibility.

            Fascinatingly ( well at least to me) where we differ is that I see there is an opportunity to leverage the intention ( to do no harm) with attention (in the moment mindfulness to the tasks and those around us, attention to engagement, and learning from experience) with an attitude of open minded curiosity and acceptance and then building our response from this position.

            It’s often the case in history that a great idea is oversimplified and misused. I’m not convinced that Zero should be demonised. I am convinced that mechanistic command and control compliance models which fail to respect and engage with the human condition do not work…

            So I continue to engage… and see where this discussion leads

          3. Hi Susan, we would probably need a much longer discussion about what we understand of ideology, semantics, semiosis and semiotics and how gestures, mantras and language penetrate the unconscious. Yes, I am aware of your background in mindfulness, I presume Kabat-Zinn etc? BTW Weick doesn’t advocate a static thing such as a HRO. He did initially but shifted later wanting to keep it dynamic so I call it HROing and make it a participle. He was quite prepared to change as he saw it being abused by the distortions Safety often makes of a good model. (Another BTW, when I capitalise something like Safety I intend it to be understood as an archetype). I am strongly influenced by Jung in worldview amongst other things.
            I was never comfortable with the ‘chronic unease’ thing or much of the very loose language that is thrown about safety as if safety is a fads and language doesn’t have meaning beyond propaganda.

            Another thing we would need to discuss would be the psychology of goals and how the language helps set culture. Even all this talk of aspiration (spiritual language) as if it nullifies zero or ‘towards zero’ and other word play, simply seeks to draw away from the fact that zero is both numerical and phenomenological in nature. Whilst I understand a well meant intention, that doesn’t mean that either the by-products or trade-off associated in that intention are just as wholesome. Often the best of intentions can have the most toxic affects.
            So, it is for many reasons I demonsise zero not the least of which is the ideological premise that is the denial of fallibility. Only infallible people can reach and sustain zero and so Zero (as an archetype) then demonsises persons and leads to the dehumanising of safety.

            One of the things I find curious from those who seek to deconstruct such a worldview is that none of them engage as you do or even seek to perhaps study this different worldview SPoR. So I congratulate you for maintaining the openness in discussion and seeking connection, common ground and questioning. Few do.

          4. Susan, I have no intention of harming anyone or myself but don’t delude myself that this is achievable. It is such an important aspect of fallibility that drives tolerance, acceptance, learning and respect. The ideology of perfectionism is a psychosis.

  2. Hi Rob,
    Predictive analytics doesn’t mean actually predicting the future. The term is readily misused and misunderstood. ‘Anticipatory analytics’ might better describe the concept. And I agree we will likely never predict specific events. At an aggravated level however, in simple, tightly constrained and highly measured environments, like online shopping, our behaviour and decisions are already being anticipated with a high degree of accuracy.
    Thanks for the blog!

    1. Thanks Andy. The betting industry exists because of tight margins, just as the insurance industry. It seems the safety industry denies what both those industries know as truth.

      1. Agree. Both industries factor in ‘losing’ or getting their estimates wrong. Both are expert at pricing risk (again, at the aggregated [not aggrevated!] level). Budgeting for ‘harm’ is only done in hushed tones. Prudent business management knows that open discussion about preparing for failure or cost is not immoral, but preparing for reality.

        1. The immoral behaviour soon emerges when the corporate behemoths, state governments or insurance companies socialise the loss using traditional delay, deny and die tactics to protect remaining assets and preserve reputations. This is quite evident with industrial diseases such as asbestosis/mesothelioma, black lung or silicosis. Many other respiratory diseases and blood disorders were also experienced by the victims of the RAAF Amberley deseal/reseal program and amongst Country Fire Authority (CFA) Fiskville employees and nearby residents.

          Then look at the devastation from the following:

          a) W R Grace at Libby in Montana
          b) CSR at Wittenoom
          c) Occidental at Love Canal
          d) Occidental Piper Alpha
          e) Union Carbide at Hawks Nest
          f) Union Carbide Bhopal
          g) BP Deepwater Horizon
          h) Massey Energy at Upper Big Branch
          i) BHP Samarco
          j) Vale Brumadinho
          k) Boeing 737 Max Lion Air
          l) Boeing 737 Max Ethiopian Airlines
          m) Hillsborough
          n) Royal Borough of Kensington – Grenfell Tower
          o) Aberfan
          p) BP Texas City
          q) MS Estonia
          r) Rabaul Queen
          s) Valley of the Drums
          t) Exxon Valdez
          u) Westgate Bridge
          v) Granville rail disaster
          w) Luna Park
          x) Grafton bus crash
          y) Kempsey bus smash
          z) Dreamworld

          It is quite interesting when you drive over Sydney harbour bridge and look at the naming rights on most of the high rise buildings. Also take a look what dominates the skyline at Marina Bay in Singapore.

          If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people – Tony Benn

    2. Thanks Andy, i understand the realities of the market. It’s the insistence on perfectionism and the absolute that is the problem. Interstingly insurers and bookies don’t agree with Safety.

  3. Starry starry night
    Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
    Swirling clouds in violet haze
    Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue
    Colors changing hue
    Morning fields of amber grain
    Weathered faces lined in pain
    Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand
    Now I understand
    What you tried to say to me
    How you suffered for your sanity
    How you tried to set them free
    They would not listen, they did not know how
    Perhaps they’ll listen now

    Now I think I know
    What you tried to say to me
    How you suffered for your sanity
    How you tried to set them free
    They did not listen, they’re not listening still
    Perhaps they never will

    Vincent – Don McLean

    Rules and models destroy genius and art – William Hazlitt

    1. Ah, Don McLean. The ethic of listening unfortunately is not on the radar of many in HSE where purity and taboo are enacted by allegiance to zero. Maybe one day Safety might be released from itself preoccupation and having to tell everyone how professional it is. I think Dylan was right there is a sense of release in escaping a lens that binds one to fear, intolerance, abuse, brutalism and counting. By demonsing all harm as evil, the church of safety can only ever close its doors to the evil of zero denial. I see this constant framing of work through the lens of safety, mechanistics, systems and numerics fostered by zero, as having as much meaning as a psychic reading. The risk matrix and many other semiotics as much meaning as an ouija board. The AIHS BoK on Ethics demonstrated such insularity and fear of dialogue that one wonders if all the demons in the world are outside of the fold.

      1. Dear Rob,

        I loved it when he was asked what American Pie was all about and he replied it meant he would never have to work again.

  4. Career and Skills Advice for current and aspiring Safety Professionals.

    Following the recent AIHS BoK Ethics and Professional Practice launch and the subsequent valid criticism, which attracted an adversarial response littered with invective and splenetic calumny, here is some pro bono publico advice for any current or aspiring safety evangelists. It has absolutely no association or remote connection with that repugnant venture capitalist Paul David (I still haven’t found what I’m looking for) Hewson:

    Preserve your dignity and cancel your AIHS membership and demand a full reimbursement of the incurred professional certification fees. This is tantamount to obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, especially when the organisation can assert inordinate influence on the structure, content and accreditation of the curricula. The sales and marketing scam merely uses rote learning, which enables gullible participants to drink from the AIHS Kool Aid fountain of propaganda.

    This one trick dog and pony show with its fawning followship of micturating malaperts has even less integrity than Bridget McKenzie, Nicola Gobbo or Julie Bishop’s erstwhile squeeze, the former redneck liberal senator Ross Lightfoot.

    Moreover, an alternate director on the AIHS board is also an executive director with SafeWork South Australia and represents the regulatory authority for Safe Work Australia, which develops national policy via the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 to create healthier, safer and productive workplaces.

    In September 2019 a Queensland parliamentary inquiry included a public briefing and hearing for the introduction of the Resources Safety and Health Queensland Bill 2019 to establish a revised regulatory framework.

    On this occasion the AIHS provided a written submission, which included a shameless and somewhat mercenary promotion of its mediocre services with the presumptive solicitation of its remunerative professional certification scheme…….. “The Institute considers that encouragement or even legislative reference to the preferred use of certified OHS professionals would improve the quality of safety outcomes.”

    This is redolent of regulatory or policy capture, which is a byzantine calumny that is simple to identify and categorise but quite difficult to prove. It is easily repudiated, elusive and rarely leads to any significant punitive action unless blatant political corruption is evident. It occurs via a labyrinth of complex processes, which include substantive
    legislation to favour specific business interests and self-serving biases with ideological motivated
    behaviour. Indeed, it is so much easier to deceive people than it is to convince them that they have been fooled.

    One of the necessary accompaniments of capitalism in a democracy is political corruption – Upton Sinclair

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below