Safety seems to avoid the most important things when thinking about tackling risk. There seems to be no interest in safety in the nature of the human unconscious nor any interest in anything outside of a narrow worldview that constructs humans-as-brains-on-bodies and cognition as brain-work. The assumptions of materialist behaviourism are accepted without question in safety as is evidenced by the OHS curriculum and AIHS BoK.
The idea that the body has no intelligence and doesn’t make decisions independent of the brain is simply smashed by all the evidence. How bizarre to think that the body plays no role in decision-making. The opposite is the case.
Ariely’s book ‘Predictably Irrational, the hidden forces that shape decisions’ confirms yet again that decision-making as rational brain-work is simply a construct of orthodoxy. How strange that we ignore all the evidence that tells us that our bodies have intelligence and ‘think’ independently from the brain (Claxton, Intelligence in the Flesh). As Claxton states ‘the brain doesn’t make decisions it hosts conversations’.
It was Plato in Timaeus that stated ‘the head, the divinest part of which controls all the rest’ and the ‘body as a convenient vehicle’.
It is because of this view that many interpret decision-making as a rational or irrational process. Nothing could be further from reality but hey, let’s not let reality get in the way of a neat and tidy binary construct.
In all decision-making there is a missing third, 95% of all decision making is neither rational (sensible) nor irrational (non-sensible) but rather aRational. The aRational third steps beyond the idea that rationalism guides the interpretation of human action.
The binary rational construct posits that most of our decision-making is centred in the brain. The rational/irrational divide simple constructs decision-making as a binary brain process of sifting, sorting and directing. If a decision doesn’t make sense then it is deemed non-sensible (irrational), nothing could be further from reality.
We have constructed this rational/irrational framework and endorsed it in western culture as valid, enabling simplistic judgment and neat boundaries for controlling risk.
We have segregated the intelligence of the head and privileged its activity and have deemed the body unintelligent, a carrier for the brain-as-computer. In this way we find all sources of problems in tackling risk as brain problems and rational problems and so seek solutions in reprogramming metaphors and training activity. In safety we see what we want to see (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/) but such a construct makes us blind to the 95%.
So, here we are again in safety lumbered with the legacy of the science-engineering construct in decision-making. The STEM-only worldview helps Safety devote 100% of its energy to 5% in decision-making and pays no attention to the 95%, the elephant in the room. Such is the way we construct cultural knowledge and make it truth.
In safety the head supervises the body in a top-down relationship that means nothing done in safety is holistic. Safety is deaf to the intelligence of the body and all we know about muscle memory, body memory, heuristics, automaticity and social memory. The construct of tackling risk as a rational process is no different from the construct of a religious world as a moral process. Both are convenient, tidy and controllable but not real.
There is no evidence anywhere that a human can be independent of others or the world. The very concept of human independence is fantasy, we can’t live without the air we breathe and all that supports it. Everything we do is affected by the world we live in and what other bodies do. Similarly, there is no privileging of rational activity over art, poetry, dance, intuition, religion, music or myth. All Poetic activities in life are not judged by some rational/irrational divide. It’s only the 5% that is rational, measurable and controllable.
All of living is an integrated whole and it is in Poetic spaces that we see aRational decision-making most exemplified. There is no judgment to be made in subjective experience; there is no rational/irrationality in music. Such a construct is nonsense. In the musicality of heuristic decision-making (paralinguistics) there is no right or wrong, it is aRational. In all our para-linguistic and linguistic activity all is aRational.
Unless safety can go beyond the science-engineering construct of the rational, it is unlikely it will re-envision risk as an aRational activity. In this rational construct paperwork is made the beginning and end in tackling risk and yet only amounts to 5% of human decision-making. 95% of what is currently considered sacred to safety could be jettisoned. It’s attributed and mythological, it is not how people make decisions. In SPoR we focus on the 95% and practical ways to understand and tackle the aRational nature of decision-making (https://cllr.com.au/register-to-study/ ).
Ralph Jarvis says
I find this pure baloney. If you have ever actually worked in Safety at the field level, workers rationalize everything and it starts in the brain. My finger gets hurt and it sends a message to my BRAIN which tells me don’t do that again. Your theory gives no solutions.
Rob Long says
Baloney, what a wonderful simplistic world you live in.
This is completely incorrect, the brain and body doesn’t work that way. But hey what would I know, you obviously have undertaken extensive research and have experience in neuroscience.
Yes, I have worked extensively in safety and 95% of all decision making is unconscious.
The research for this and the experience for this is overwhelming.
Your simplistic behaviourist approach is not how humans learn nor how humans make decisions.
There are plenty of solutions if you want to read or follow up anything I write, but of course if your already know everything and declare what you don’t know as baloney, then you won’t read or follow up. Did you get all this knowledge from your 5 day certificate in safety or does all this expertise in neuroscience just come naturally?
And what’s more its all free and downloadable.
Rob Long says
. and when anything goes wrong seek solutions in an inquiry that will give the responses that are expected that sustain the assumptions of the industry. When you have a cultural problem ask an engineer, when you have a people problem ask a scientist and when you have an organisational problem ask a bureaucrat. The primary driving dynamic is to seek sychophants to those in power and hold fast to political machinations that keep the status quo.
Bernard Corden says
The following is a quote from the Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk about the US Navy:
“The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you are not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them. Constantly ask yourself, “How would I do this if I were a fool?” Throttle down your mind to a crawl. Then you will never go wrong.”
Rob Long says
… and all questioning is evil. any deviance is deemed unethical. Don’t listen to criticism, demonise dissent and hold fast to the attribution of what the industry declares true, even though it doesn’t work.
Bernard Corden says
A quick glance at who has or held responsibility for work place health and safety at federal and state levels over the past few decades provides ample evidence to reflect and align with your despair.
At a federal level it currently comes under the portfolio of our attorney-general, a fecund three-toed Bullingdon Club acolyte and dead ringer for Frank Spencer.
The current chair of Safe Work Australia is a nonexecutive director with Wesfarmers, another corporate brigand that deifies the Friedman doctrine. Previous senior executive roles included sinecures with Westpac, McKinsey and Company and Broadspectrum.
Westpac hardly covered itself in glory during the recent banking royal commission and McKinsey and Company were embroiled in the Enron scandal at the turn of the millennium and more recently the US opioid epidemic involving Pardue Pharmaceuticals.
Broadspectrum provided facilities management services at the Manus Island migrant regional processing centre.
Another former chairperson of SWA held senior executive roles with Westpac Banking Corporation and Carnival Australia.
Following the dissolution of the independent National Occupational Health and Safety Commission a former BHP executive was appointed as an interim chairperson.
In Queensland WHS comes under the portfolio of a chthonic industrial relations minister who once broke bread with several ALP factional power brokers at the notorious Sussex Street headquarters.
Rob Long says
Ed, if you want to hide devious motive, rank power or corrupt intent just invoke safety and all opposition ends. There is nothing like mindless compliance to make all the sheep fall in line. Such is the industry that loves to claim the word ‘professional’.
A recent visit to a hospital has left we wondering where Workplace safety is heading. A close female family member 70yrs plus was in a major private hospital, linked to a church, for a hip replacement. When the relative wished to get out of or get into their bed or for rehabilitation requirements they were left to struggle & wrestle on their own with hospital staff watching but not permitted to assist due to Workplace Health & Safety.
I struggled to contain my outrage, despair, and bewilderment.
Definitely not a noble, helping “profession” or organisation.