The Will to Do

Definitionally we know that energy is a conserved quantity or property of an object. When referred to humans energy is ‘the will to do’.

No object has a ‘will’ including machines or computers, nor do machines have emotions, bodies or motivation to will anything, nor the will to learn. This is a huge problem for the energy-hazard – energy-damage model that has been popularized in safety. For example: we often read how various energies ‘harm’ people as if energy has a will of its own ( In this energy-damage model Energy is often personified as if it has a will to do.

In the energy-damage model the language is always on the energy in the object as if the release of energy is the decision of the object. This is how safety thinks. Yet, no object has ‘a will to do’.

The idea of damaging energies theory puts the emphasis on managing objects as if objects have a will to do ( ). Similarly in incident investigations the energy damage model has a focus on the source of energy, not the will to do.

Energy-Damage Model


What the Energy-Damage Model doesn’t do, is address, identify or discuss the critical issue of enactment – the will to do. Apparently energy is able to harm, damage, injure, lose control and release power all on its own. Eg. ‘The space transfer mechanism is the means by which the energy and the recipient are brought together assuming that they are initially remote from each other’.

However, it is in this dialectic ‘space transfer mechanism’ that we learn about ‘the will to do’. One of the most interesting aspects of the damaging energies model is that it talks about protecting people by managing objects, what strange language.

When we take the focus off objects and place our focus on humans and socialitie, we see that the will to do is driven by meaning, purpose, motivation and learning. At the heart of human decision making lies the will to do. This is central to understanding an Ethic of Risk. How strange that this industry consumed by choice (‘safety is a choice you make’) spends so little energy and focus on the will to do. Of course if you turn to the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics you will find no discussion on The Will To Do but rather no will, just duty, the quashing of will.

When we read Nietzsche (The Will to Power, we are confronted by challenges in understanding human will. For example:

‘If war proves unsuccessful one asks who was to ‘blame’ for the war; if it ends in victory one praises its instigator. Guilt is always sought wherever there is failure; for failure brings with it a depression of spirits against which the sole remedy is instinctively applied; a new excitation of the feeling of power – and this is to discovered in the condemnation of the guilty.’

How well Nietzsche knew of the safety industry in 1886!

I wonder when this safety industry will one day take its gaze off objects? I wonder when it might think for a second of how socialitie creates the will to do? Until this happens it is not likely that it will ever discuss an Ethic of Risk.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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