Ignorance about self-capability and about what other professions do, is a sure-fire way to fuel the idea that Safety can do anything. Just because you have a mouth, ears and can talk doesn’t mean one is skilled in observation, listening and helping.
When you don’t know what Educators do, you think you can be a teacher. When you don’t know what a lawyer does, you think you can be a lawyer. When you don’t know what a counsellor does, you think you can be a counsellor. These are dangerous beliefs that demonstrate ignorance about professionalism.
Professional counsellors and those in pastoral care with years of study, research and experience never run about parading pathetic ideas of ‘fixing’ others, ‘controlling’ others or invoking ‘control measures’. This is the language of the safety industry thrown at Psychosocial health (hazards).
Of course, in safety, even when discussing ethics (AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics) it never talks about ‘care’ or ‘helping’ (or power). If you look at anything in a caring profession, this is all that is talked about (https://www.mhinnovation.net/sites/default/files/downloads/innovation/tools/PMHP-Basic-Counselling-Skills.pdf).
And it is important to understand that the helper/counsellor is NOT a position of superiority. In Safety the opposite is cultivated so that it believes it can do anything.
Helping/counselling is not just a skill but a disposition, a worldview. Helping and counselling is about how one is oriented towards the world and others.
You will find no curriculum in safety globally that talks about helping, learning and care in this way. Most of the time we hear the word ‘communication’ in safety, it simply means ‘telling’ (https://safetyrisk.net/telling-the-safety-way/ ).
Indeed, the question about orientation to others and the world is not a question to be considered in safety. Instead, the message is: ‘we know the facts’, ‘we know the regulation’, ‘we know what’s unsafe’ and we ‘save lives’. No-one in a caring or helping profession uses such language. In a helping and caring profession effective questioning is NOT understood as a formula of skills either. Effective questioning comes from that same worldview and orientation.
One thing is for sure: if all you hear each day is the language of hazards and zero, you will NOT be oriented to others for effective questioning and listening.
Such an orientation breeds anti-listening, anti-learning, anti-conversation, non-observation and policing.
When I was educated to be clergy we did 4 years of Pastoral Psychology and 3 years of in-field supervised experience before we even considered ‘helping’ in ‘care’ for persons in Psychosocial need.
The position and language of ‘helper’ is language of humility and invokes a special disposition in listening. This mode of listening (https://safetyrisk.net/the-art-of-active-listening-in-risk/) is NOT hearing, is not receiving information. Professionals in counselling know what listening means and it’s nothing like how Safety uses the word.
When educated in Pastoral Psychology you work though texts like Gerard Egan’s wonderful book: The Skilled Helper (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337084700_Egan%27s_Skilled_Helper_Model), and many other great texts, and constantly reflect on professional practice under professional supervision. When in a caring and helping profession, language like ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills are not spoken, there’s just ‘people skills’ and ‘non-people skills’. Indeed, when you hear people talk about ‘soft skills’ and ‘hard skills’ you know they have no professional knowledge about care and helping.
Sadly, Safety doesn’t understand itself as a ‘helping’ profession (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-as-a-helping-profession/).
So, when it comes to Psychosocial and mental health, it is best to know one’s place, keep clear to your purpose and don’t imagine safety is a caring/helping profession. Even professionals in caring and helping professions know when they are out of their depth and when to refer on. They also know that there is never one symptom, nor simple problem because any Psychosocial and mental health issue surfaces in social and relational dysfunction.
The simplistic stuff found in the Psychosocial Hazards Codes of Practice and ISO 45003 demonstrate an industry out of its depth, that loves to use the word ‘professional’ but doesn’t know how to enact it.
Here’s a simple test. Download: People at Work, Taking Action to Eliminate or Minimize Hazards . Then read the document with a simple question: How and who will do this? And then assess how helpful this document is. Then work out if anyone in safety should be involved? A wish list is not an action plan and a statement of ideas is NOT a method.
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