The work of Gabor Mate should be of interest to anyone in the sphere of HEALTH and safety.
Mate (Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder; When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress; and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction) reminds us that there is no separation between body, Mind and brain. Similarly, Van der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score) demonstrates that many things that harm are permanent and hidden.
When we understand human persons as embodied, we give up the silly nonsense of zero harm and begin to take ALL forms of harm seriously, not just whatever is defined as a recordable injury.
When we understand human persons as embodied, we learn that mental health and psychological harm are evident for those that want to do more than count TRIFR rates and checklists.
Mate’s new book entitled the Myth of Normal documents ways in which the delusions of ‘normal’ create harm and hierarchies of harm. Most often when harm is visual it is taken seriously and when harm is unconscious and invisible, we doubt its existence. In an industry dominated by engineering, behaviourism and zero, this is an even greater challenge.
Mate describes how cultural acceptance and normalisation (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/) of some values, sanctions harm. This is no different in the safety industry, mostly sustained by safety myths (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-myths/).
For example, it is considered normal and a key identity of Safety to count injury rates, even though they have no correspondence to the creation of a safe workplace. Myths are normalised by symbolic anchoring. The acceptance of the myths of linear causality and the control of hazards are maintained by the myths of bow-tie, risk matrix, swiss-cheese, dominoes etc. The reality is, that life is messy and uncertain.
For those who want to understand decision making, addiction and self-harm I would recommend In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. Indeed, just look at the way the media demonises substance abuse and selective addictions. (You never see an addiction to greed as a health issue). A similar point is made by McGarity in The Freedom to Harm (https://safetyrisk.net/freedom-to-harm-the-gig-economy-and-zero/).
Unfortunately, in an industry with an aversion to critical thinking, politics and ethics, I doubt many would know of Mate or Van der Kolk or, see any connection between embodiment and the delusions of zero harm, the global mantra for the safety industry.
Mark Taylor says
Thanks Rob, looks an interesting book
Rob Long says
Hi Mark, Gabor Mate should be in any safety curriculum. Of course it isn’t, and says much about the state of wHs.
Indeed, the best reading for safety isn’t found in safety.