I have had numerous people contact me in the last few weeks about issues of resilience, pastoral care, helping, mental health and wisdom for the workforce and more broadly for families and community. One person contacted me and stated: ‘we need the heart of wisdom at this time’. Hmmm, ‘the heart of wisdom’, you won’t hear that spoken about in the WHS curriculum.
Unfortunately, all the safety training in the world doesn’t make one skilled in any the above. WHS training makes no attempt at, nor uses any of the language of: care, helping, wisdom or resilience in describing the identity of safety. Rightly or wrongly, safety is still generally considered: policing people by rules, regulation and checkers of bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the education of the caring professions is a foreign land to the island of Safety.
If you are a safety person wishing to expand your role into the areas of community care, family counselling, pastoral care or ‘attending’ to the extra-work needs of employees then, the best option is to delegate your concerns to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Safety is not educated in the disciplines of care and helping. If Safety wishes to understand the nature of the caring professions it would need to jump into a transdisciplinary approach and embrace professions that simply don’t think in Zero There is simply no denying it, Zero is the global mantra for safety (http://visionzero.global/node/6 ). However, Zero is anathema to the caring professions.
· The first role of a caring profession is to focus on the person and personhood (see SPoR Handbook p27-32). Unfortunately, the focus of safety is on hazards, counting and injury recording. This subject-object dichotomy couldn’t be more pronounced than in the embodiment of zero, the global mantra for safety.
· Caring professions don’t identify themselves in counting and don’t define safety as the absence of harm. Indeed, caring professionals accept the reality of harm and fallibility and, work on the betterment of relationships and personhood when people find themselves in harm. Safety simply denies harm exists. Ah, for The Love of Zero (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/for-the-love-of-zero-free-download/ ).
· Zero is the mantra of intolerance and judgment and naturally precludes the essentials of counselling/helping, these are: tolerance, acceptance, trust, care and helping, the essentials for pastoral care.
· The fourth action caring professions focus on is listening and not ‘fixing’. Unfortunately Safety has the opposite focus – telling and fixing.
· A focus on ‘fixing’ naturally precludes Safety from a disposition of helping. The evidence is really quite stark. Do a casual search of the OHS Body of Knowledge (https://www.ohsbok.org.au/bok-chapters/) and look for the language of care, helping, listening and wisdom. Look at the order of interest in how the chapters have developed and what has been a priority and its certainly not ethics, care and helping. Then look at the volume of chapters dedicated to hazards and systems? What is even more remarkable is the absence of any chapter on zero in the AIHS BoK, especially in the chapter on Ethics. One cannot be ethical or professional if your ideology is zero. All the peak bodies in safety in Australia are signed up to zero.
· Caring professions withhold judgment, an essential in listening. This is known as Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR). When the focus is behaviourism anchored to zero then judgment and blaming must be your trajectory. We see this in the darling of Safety – The DuPont Bradley Curve. Hmmm, and where has DuPont ended up??? (https://safetyrisk.net/dark-waters-the-true-story-of-dupont-and-zero/). The natural trajectory of zero and the denial of fallibility is hiding, denial and its reward is hypocrisy and contradiction. It’s such a strange truism for an industry that when safety comes first, people come second.
· There ain’t no compassion in Zero!
The positive alternative is when Safety accepts a transdisciplinary approach (https://safetyrisk.net/the-value-of-transdisciplinary-inquiry-in-a-crisis/) to persons and it views the workplace holistically. The positive can come when Safety disposes of zero and shifts its focus to people.
What Covid has amplified and brought to the surface more than ever is that organisations need a transdisciplinary approach to persons in crisis and an understanding of holistic ergonomics (https://cllr.com.au/product/holistic-ergonomics-unit-6/ ). If Safety needs anything over this period of Covid it is a complete overhaul of the WHS curriculum and what is considers essential knowledge. And nothing is more certain that won’t come from STEM.