Safety is the industry of ‘hazards’ and ‘controls’. This is the most popular and frequently used language for an industry that struggles to be ethical and professional.
Now with the advent of ISO 45003, all of a sudden, this industry has to become person-centric, human-centric and holistic, fat chance. The history of this industry over the past 30 years has been one of demonising, dehumanising and brutalising humans. An exaggeration? Well, just have a look at this: https://safetyrisk.net/the-enemy-of-safety-humans/ an AIHS sanctioned course entitled ‘How to address the risk of humans as hazards’.
Ah Safety, wouldn’t the world be much safer with no humans!
Even when Safety talks about ‘human factors’ it’s never about humans but systems, of which humans are a ‘factor’ (https://safetyrisk.net/human-factors-is-never-about-humans/).
When your mantra is zero, the impediments are humans (https://safetyrisk.net/and-the-enemy-of-safety-is-humans/).
There’s no hope for humans in zero harm (https://safetyrisk.net/no-hope-for-humans-in-zero-harm/). Indeed, Safety doesn’t use the language of ‘hope’ in relation to itself.
How fascinating now this industry that now categorises psychosocial and mental health as a ‘hazard’ (https://safetyrisk.net/welcome-to-the-nightmare-safety-creates-its-own-minefield-as-usual/).
There is so much out there on this new standard ISO 45003 and most of it is laughable. Indeed, associating the language of ‘hazard’ with psychosocial and mental health demonstrates clearly, complete incompetence in any capability to tackle the issue.
No-one who is professional and works in psychosocial and mental health would ever use such language. It is simply absurd to associate psychosocial health with ‘slips trips and falls’. Just read this ‘goop’: ISO 45003: Manage Your Business’s Psychological Risk
As a research project, why not look for any text in the psychosocial and mental health ‘professions’ (eg. nursing, medicine, social work) and do a word search for ‘hazard’. You won’t find it. Here is an example: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10938935_Psychosocial_determinants_of_health
If one associates the language of ‘hazard’ with persons and psychosocial and mental health, then one envisions that person as a problem. This is how the language of ‘hazard’ is used in safety. A hazard is a problem object.
Of course, at a fundamental level of shaping orientation, disposition and worldview is driven by the ‘framing’, ‘priming’ and ‘anchoring’ of language. Language not only has to make sense, it becomes the very foundation of how we live. Every safety person should read Metaphors We Live By (Lakoff and Johnson). And we can guess that such a text is not on any reading list or curriculum in safety anywhere across the globe.
Safety is the industry that validates ‘nonsense talk’ (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-experts-in-speaking-nonsense-to-people/ ). This is exemplified by the language of ‘zero’ spoken to fallible people (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/). What we also know is the zero industry never uses words like ‘fallibility’, ‘mortality’ and ‘imperfect’. If you want to know what safety believes, listen to its silences (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/ ).
Go to any zero discourse in the safety industry and you will observe the speaking of nonsense to people (https://safetyrisk.net/believe-the-impossible-and-speak-nonsense-to-people/). The worst example of this is the silly ‘Spirit of Zero’ video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VIRXEuniWA) complete with religious apocalyptic imagery, music and symbolism. Didn’t you know Zero restores limbs and helps the blind to see.
All of this, especially the safety curriculum and AIHS BoK, turn ‘the i-it objectivization of humans’ (thanks Linda) into an art form. (90% of the AIHS BoK focus is objects). This is the same Safety that has no ethic of personhood beyond ‘do your duty and check your gut’ (https://safetyrisk.net/the-aihs-bok-and-ethics-check-your-gut/ ).
I can just hear Safety talking in a meeting on hazards now. (Complete with no expertise in psychosocial and mental health, a history of objectivising humans and in love with zero (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/for-the-love-of-zero-free-download/). I’m sure the talk will go like this:
· ‘Let’s talk about these hazards (humans), what are we going to do about them?’
· ‘Can someone please pass me the hazard register’, ‘are being, doing and living hazards?’
· ‘Let’s have a hazard hunt. Fixed any human hazards recently?’
· ‘Let’s fix these anxiety and depression hazards!’
Even the ISO 45003 standard ensures it maintains many silences about persons in its discourse. A good example is Safety’s fear of mentioning anything of a spiritual/religious nature, especially when it comes to culture. Yet, search any text in the psychosocial and mental health ‘professions’ and spiritual and religious well-being are considered foundational to mental health. Here are a few examples:
Of course, Safety doesn’t include any of this in either it’s definition of culture or anything associated with risk.
Indeed, Safety is risk averse to any discussion of non-measurable needs of persons in the workplace, despite the fact that workplaces have prayer rooms and work conditions that accommodate religious need and therapy.
Furthermore, for First Nations people the idea of separating spiritual health from mental health is nonsense (https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/indigenous-health-and-wellbeing; https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/health/mental-health-and-aboriginal-people ). A good read is: Aboriginal Culture Essentials by Korff (Creative Spirits).
Ah yes, but we know the safety solution. Anything it defines as the ‘too hard basket’, don’t talk about it. This is the Hopkins-Busch solution.
This is the same Safety that is now going to be person-centric, human-centric and holistic! Without a curriculum, Body of Knowledge or ethic to support it.
Already, there is call for Safety to conduct audits of psychosocial and mental health . Who is going to do this? Here’s the minefield, now walk into it blindfolded (https://safetyrisk.net/welcome-to-the-nightmare-safety-creates-its-own-minefield-as-usual/ ).
Can you just imagine a Safety Psychosocial Triage or Assessment? With no ethic, who is going to confess anything to an industry consumed with ‘speak up’, ‘blaming’ and ‘brutalism’ and, no professional experience or expertise in confidentiality essential for psychosocial and mental health? How is any of this going to be ‘reported’ when confidentiality is essential to tackling psychosocial and mental health?
Workers learn very quickly that the last person to confess to is Safety.
And now with the regulator getting in on the act (https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/psychosocial-hazards-contributing-work-related-stress) workers will learn very quickly that any confession of psychosocial harm will be your last. Just imagine working in a toxic zero workplace and confessing about the harm caused by such toxicity! There’s the door.
The global safety mantra strikes again.
Here’s a typical Triage Psychosocial Assessment (https://www.leegov.com/dhs/Documents/HMIS/Triage-Psychosocial-Assessment.pdf), who would let Safety-Zero near anything like this?
This is the same industry that never talks about ‘helping’ and is fixated on ‘telling’, ‘controls’ and ‘fixing’.
An attitude of fixing is a recipe for disaster in psychosocial and mental health.
This is why the language of ‘hazards’ is toxic for the development of any competence in tackling mental health in the workplace.
If one is interested in a positive, constructive and practical approach to tackling risk and psychosocial mental health, then SPoR offers many workshops (some for free) and other free resources to ‘help’. The current free programs running on culture and ethics are examples.
Of course the biggest hazard is the human. The human brain is where decisions or lack of decisions are made through a plethora of external influences, factors and traps. You can have as many processes and feel good or utterly bizarre “zero harm” posters around, but you have a perfectly working human who has just fallen out with his partner, has had a death in the family, is thinking of the beautiful lady he/she/them is taking taking out on a date tonight and you have indeed a huge issue. Saying that the intent is to eliminate the human is absurd and downright disrespectful to anyone that was aimed at. People make mistake and make worse ones when they are distracted on a real level, not a fancy word to tock boxes level. Communicate and have the backing of your workers and you can assist. Taking about Putin doesn’t serve anything. If you have a rant then please back.it up with a solution. Decker finally did in his last book but it took years of listening to the man belittle everyone first. Doesn’t help. I know you have to make a living but try showing a degree of empathy at some point.
Hi Jaise, always great to read comments and increase an understanding of what other people are thinking about in this space. And I fully agree with ‘if you have a rant please back it up with a solution’. However it would appear that you have not taken the time to read or understand any of the links provided in the article or elsewhere on the site to start with. Further, in terms of a ‘solution’ it is only natural for us to crave a magic bullet for each ‘problem’ however this is the fallacy of solving/fixing wicked problems. https://safetyrisk.net/the-worst-approach-to-psychosocial-problems-is-an-attitude-of-fixing/
And this is where I think Safety runs out of tools (how to deal with non-object/hazard related aspects of living and working as a human being in this world.) and we need to look outside the world of traditional Safety to help understand how to live and learn and wrangle with real risk and complexity, and to embrace human fallibility and actually meet people and appreciate we are all mortals afflicted with the same disease. There is an absolute lifetime of learning and understanding to be absorbed on this website, and a wealth of free and paid training and other resources provided as a “Solution” to back up the rant. The hardest part is accepting that humans and risk are types of ‘wicked problems’ and can’t be ‘fixed’. Then we can start to learn how to meet people, ask them, and help them, and all get on with life, living, learning, and tackling risk together.