If there was ever a disastrous start to the birth of an industry it has to be safety. When Herbert Heinrich published Industrial Accident Prevention in 1931 he launched an industry that would be obsessed with numerics, metrics, counting and misattribution.
Most of what Heinrich concocted was pure fiction. His theory was not based on evidence but rather the fanciful dreaming of an insurance Clerk. Whilst parading the words ‘science’ and ‘facts’ in his discourse, his theories were about neither. Nothing much has changed in safety since then. You can nearly guarantee if Safety says it’s doing something, it’s the opposite.
Heinrich the dreamer came fresh on the heels of Taylorism and the adoration of linearity. What a shame the messiness of life and living doesn’t match the delusions of his concocted falsities. How neat to grab domino theory and apply it to incident causation, only trouble is such theory has no connection to reality. But hey, what a wonderful delusion for those who think humans can be engineered as ‘factors’ in a system.
One of the beauties of Heinrich is his sheer imagination. His pyramid of statistical causality, perhaps one of the best acts of fraud ever believed by Safety. How neat to invent a mathematical construct to match a numeric worldview of risk, trouble is, it’s complete fiction. Nevermind Safety, what a lovely theory to attach to the fresh theory floating at the time expounded by Skinner and Watson. The only trouble is, all of this is pure fiction. None of this matches the reality of personhood, human identity or anthropological evidence.
However, once a religious cult has started its hard to resist a statement of faith supported by an insurance salesman and the promises of mechanistic behaviourism.
Move the clock forward 90 years and who would have thought that an industry in 2021 would be still functioning under the Heinrich Hoodoo. Even more strange is the consummation of the cult in the ideology of zero. How delighted would Heinrich and his pal Peterson be, to know that their weird concoctions of dominoes, pyramids and mechanistic models were being worship in the zero cult today!