Safety Racism


imageIt seems that the moment one invokes the word ‘safety’ all ethical considerations become unimportant. We see evidence of this with comments that Islanders are less safe, and less intelligent for safety! .

How do people get away with this??? Of course safety is the industry of eugenics! ( Once the sacred word ‘safety’ is invoked all critical thinking ceases. This is how you can run dumb campaigns like ‘Mums for Safety’  and no one bats an eyelid. Anyone who criticizes safety must be unsafe and demonsised. This is the binary nature of the industry and why compliance drives its ideology.

What we see in this tirade against Islanders is all the crazy assumptions of safety discourse coming to the surface. Isn’t it strange that the industry of safety that is fixated on compliance itself cannot think critically because of how it defines safety. Any critical thinking must be suppressed because compliance is king! Hmmm, who is dumb? In the context of this story it is clear where any lack of intelligence lies and it’s not with the Islanders. Indeed, it is only the delusion of paperwork-as-safety and safety-as-systems that creates such racist ignorance. Poor old Safety counting LTIs on the Titanic as the humans scream for help.

Now its clear that this article is propaganda but nonetheless brings to the surface an ideology that lacks an ethic. Indeed, there is simply no discussion in the industry for an ethic of risk or safety. Indeed, if you were going to construct a body of knowledge in safety one would have to start with ethics. How can safety be ethical when its foundation is the denial of Fallibility ( and the Love of Zero ( )? Any denial of fallibility must lead to a dehumanizing ethic. When your global mantra for safety is zero (( then racism is OK.

What is so typical in this story is the level abuse sanctioned on either side of the debate. How strange to abuse others in the name of safety. Isn’t that a slight contradiction? I care for you so much I’m going to denigrate your race as dumb bums because I care for your safety? I’m so keen on zero harm that I psychologically and socially harm you for your own good. Yep, no need for an ethic here.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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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.

10 Replies to “Safety Racism”

  1. The scientific method when correctly applied sifts fact from fiction although the relentless stream of bilge from safety conferences indicates our peak organisations with cohorts of insufferable parasites and sycophants are incapable of distinguishing evidence from nonsense.

    Moreover the safety cult or sect is preoccupied with measuring everything and catacombs of worthless data become better than no information at all. It is nothing but a charade that turns adversity into opportunity and makes a fortune when blood is running through the streets.

  2. Hi Rob, when I worked for the Health & Safety Executive in Glasgow, Scotland, I concluded that I had to apply a different enforcement strategy when working in the far flung Western Isles.

    But this wasn’t racism, just a reflection of a different way of life than those hardened in the Big City.

    So, knew that they had every intention to “do it” but “when?”. So I knew that if I went to a motor vehicle repair workshop in Clydeside and commented on perhaps a mains voltage handlamp they would either replace it or swear at me. If the latter I could decide to serve a Notice or not. Up in Lewis I was very confident that they would replace it, but in which decade?!?!

    1. Peter, such a fine line between understanding the nuances of culture and the ethics required to act in safety, particularly in the language used around safety. Knowing how to engage with other cultures is critical to understanding engagement, listening, care and helping, words not used much in safety. The language of racism is the language of blame and insult, clear in this story.

      With such poor definition of culture in the industry it is no wonder people don’t know what to do. I was on a site recently with over 100 chinese workers and the company had brought in a manager who could speak mandarin and understood the culture. The safety people also learned some mandarin basics so they could say words like, ‘look’, ‘listen’ ‘stop’ ‘let’s talk’ etc and this was so clever. On this large building site these workers were not demonsised in language nor their habits, worldview and collective unconscious ignored. Indeed, the safety manager who has studied semiotics with me knew how important that was in communicating. A very successful job in cross-cultural management and the opposite of this story above.

      In my workshop in culture I introduce participants to the work of Hofstede and the Culture Compass, a great resource for developing undersanding, patience, empathy, helping and care.

      On thing is for sure, I wouldn’t be going anywhere near the safety BoK for any insight into culture.

  3. I wonder whether Mr James has ever read anything by Michele de Montaigne, Guy de Maupassant, Jonathan Swift, H. G. Wells, Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley or George Orwell.

  4. Having read your blog(including comments) and also reading the piece in question regarding what is on the surface abhorrent thinking/speaking on the part of James, there may be an explanation in part for his reasons in what he’s maybe trying to say, albeit poorly.

    The notion of family and elder respect without question, for Islanders and their descendants is well known, add in lower levels of education and you can see how James may have come up with the idea that “Islanders don’t have a sense of self preservation” as the cultural combination outlined could easily make for a situation where an individual actually makes the choice (either consciously or subconsciously) to accept a situation with, what others may believe to be an unacceptable level of risk. This acceptance I think may be largely drawn from the ideal of the greater good for the family. As well as many other complicating factors.

    I see in the article both sides using “Safety” as a political football and the genuine concern for the workers being close to non-existent from both parties to the argument. I also see fault in both sides and don’t lean one way or the other, neither James nor the CFMEU is righteous here.

    So how does one proceed from this point? Communication, communication, communication as well as a serious helping of empathy and cultural understanding, I 100% agree with the idea that safety is people skills not number skills. I am definitely no expert in this area, just an interested onlooker but a step in the right direction might be framing the workplace communication model around how the extended family operates for Islanders. From personal experience having an Elder in the workplace as a Health & Safety Rep opens up a channel of communication that may not otherwise be there and it reportedly functions well.

    Food for thought?

    An extract from an interesting piece from the City of Logan QLD.

    3.5 Cultural Differences
    Culturally, there a many points of difference between Pacific Islander and Anglo-Saxon practices and
    ways of thinking.
    Like many other First Peoples around the world, the basic social unit in Pacific Islander societies is
    the extended family. Extended families offer certainty and comfort, and Pacific Islander families often
    function by sharing responsibilities for childcare and caring for the elderly or sick family members.
    With emphasis on the extended family, Pacific Islander communities also have a collectivist
    orientation, where the interests of the group dominate those of individuals. This is in contrast to AngloAustralian culture, often described as individualistic (Manley et al., 2013; Kearney et al., 2015).
    Pacific Islander culture is also typically hierarchical, maintained by rights to speak and to be obeyed
    possessed by those at the higher levels, and obligations to listen and conform among those at lower
    levels (Schoeffel & Meleisea, n.d.). Elders are accorded authority and children are expected to show
    respect and obedience to their parents and elders, and to accept without question their elders’
    decisions (Mavoa et al, 2004). These attitudes differ to those in a typical Australian school context
    where students are encouraged to question, analyse and discuss issues (Kearney et al., 2015).

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