Real Risk for Real Life

Real Risk for Real Life

imageThe problems of death and time lay at the heart of all religious consciousness. This is why Risk and Safety are fundamentally religious activities. Risk and Safety are all about ‘risk from’ and ‘safety to’. Risk and Safety are about freedom from death which is inevitable in time. Anything else is the denial of mortality, finitude, vulnerability and fallibility. Talking as if human living is eternally immune from harm is the grand delusion of having zero vision. When one has zero vision then Death and Time are made the enemy, they must be feared and fought. This is the delusion of the language of immortality, so attractive yet we buy life insurance policies.

One of the delights of growing old is observing new life, learning and development. I was with my grandson last week who is just merging from crawling to walking, such an amazing transition and a privilege to watch how he learns so quickly through mimetics. Language is a long way away. Later his language will simply anchor to what he already knows. Studies in child development teach us so much about ourselves, as does the first illness and first fall, it doesn’t take long for a child to learn they are fallible, vulnerable and mortal.

The parent knows vulnerability and fallibility acutely and spends most of their time ensuring the safety of their child because they know just how mortal children are. This is why parents don’t speak nonsense to their children, they don’t speak about zero harm because they know how idiotic it is. They want their child to know about real life and about real risk (https:// The language children hear before they can speak is ‘upsie daisy’, ‘there there’, ‘oh oh’, ‘never mind’ and other sounds and gestures that help children accept the inevitability of harm.

When my granddaughter comes over she proudly shows me her latest ‘owie’, that’s what she calls a cut or abrasion. Last time it was the cat that scratched her on the nose, before that she fell down some steps. Just as well children’s bodies and bones are made for harm. Her little 2 year old body mends much more quickly than mine. That’s the reality of aging. We see in these little ones the development of resilience, and we know if they don’t learn to be resilient that life will crush them. There’s a lot more harm to come and they need to be ready for it.

Why is it then that the moment one is baptised into Safety that all this sense turns into nonsense? And because it doesn’t make sense, Safety turns to religion and faith in zero.

The poets, artists and musicians capture so well the problem of death and time.

John Donne in the seventeenth century captured the problem so well in ‘Death Be Not Proud’. ( Donne sets out the problem of death, time and humanity in this 14 line sonnet. In the middle of typhoid fever he talks to the archetype Death and proposes that even Death is trapped in its own decay whereas those who sleep arise to eternal life.

The Beatles captured the nature of death in their famous hit ‘Let it Be’. McCartney talks to Mother Mary on the inevitability of death proposing that there is no sense in fighting it. Indeed, to speak about letting things be is ‘words of wisdom’ (

Dali captures the challenges of death in Ballerina in a Death’s Head (https:// Here Dalí captures the ambiguity of death in life and the illusion of eternal life.

One of the problems with the zero harm movement is that it has no language to make sense of life and death to people. The denial of harm is the denial of life and the focus of zero is not on Real Risk but petty risk. Every scratch and every bump must now be amplified. This is the psychological effect of zero.

The moment Safety sets life as some binary discourse in the language of salvation, it must become religious. Zero is an ideology that must believe in the eternal, it has no language to accept harm and so has no choice but to speak nonsense to people.  How odd then that we teach children to accept harm and then the moment they come into Safety they learn to deny it! Indeed, Safety then punishes people for it.

Imagine what would happen if we punished children for being harmed? What kind of dysfunctional children would that would create? The immaturity of Safety immersed in zero harm ideology is not even childish.

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.

5 Replies to “Real Risk for Real Life”

  1. We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment in life is a miracle and a mystery – HG Wells

    Yet the policy makers, regulators and evangelical safety crusaders remain enamoured by TRIFRs and exposure standards:

  2. Love this article – I am an Operations Manager and in my previous company regardless of all the correct safety procedures, training etc. being in place and followed, if there was an accident or a serious injury the Manager would be… what we would term as be crucified due to the Zero harm policy

  3. Ii know I posted this on FB Rob, but along these same line I have heard the following phrase twice in the last week or so “Safety policies/rules are paid for in blood”. No binary discourse created there is there? That just might alienate a few folks and help create and anti-learning culture that is shocked when someone encounters Real Risk and has a debilitating injury in part because the potential warning sighs were ignored due to fear of reporting errors and being made a “safety pariah”.

    1. Dyno, the safety pariah is made from anyone who is non compliant with the dominant myths in risk and safety. The issue then is not the questions they ask or the challenges to think that they seek, it is their non-compliance that is demonsised and so the indutry continues to grow, lack vision and put all its eggs in the bureaucracy basket.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below