Safety is not Just a Choice
Guest post by Dr Rob Long from Human Dymensions
The trouble with simplistic approaches to the complexities of human decision making and risk is the fictional projection of good, attributed to outcomes. The idea that ‘safety is a choice’ is absolute nonsense, how offensive is this statement to all those who have lost loved ones at work. On this logic all workplace fatalities are suicide. The following video is an example:
The reason why we use the word ‘accident’ is because humans can’t control everything, to be a human is to be fallible and the projection of some sense of infallibility is just a religious wish. The recent loss of a Malaysian plane reminds us that we are not gods. To then preach that ‘safety is a choice’ infers that those who have been injured at work made a choice to be harmed. This is the nonsense of the zero harm approach, it drives cognitive dissonance, blaming, under reporting (and therefore non-learning) and, language gymnastics. Once the foundation of naïve discourse has started, zero harm ideology has its own trajectory, it take you into the land of Nong. And, the logic of the zero harm discourse simply gets more illogical as commitment to it advances. Many companies use the words ‘zero harm’ and then redefine the words to not mean zero harm. Some companies have taken the language of ‘safety’ and ‘risk’ out of their talk and even have nonsense job descriptions such as General Manager Zero Harm, what’s next?
The idea that ‘safety is a choice’ ignores all the research in the psychology of risk that demonstrates how context and social arrangements unconsciously affect choice, that cognitive biases and heuristics unconsciously affect choice and, that a host of internal (neurobiology) external factors (socialpsychology) affect human judgment and decision making. For example, the idea that humans can ‘will’ safety, flies in the face of all we know about addictions. Most humans have an addiction that is a trade off for safety, and understand that a commitment of will to become safe is nonsense talk.
Worse still, if ‘safety is a choice’ then one must blame and punish those who are unsafe, because they ‘chose’ not to be safe, just as one should reward those who ‘chose to be safe’. What an anti-human and degrading discourse to commit to.