Trinket Safety

Trinket Safety

imageThere’s nothing quite like the safety market when selling snake oil. Amazing to see engineers selling neuroscience and behaviourists selling eugenics. Remarkable how easy it is to sell the silver bullet to an undiscerning audience.

The marketing of so called perfect solutions to the challenges of fallibility are at best entertaining and at worst dangerous. I am often sent links to these con artists that rise and fall in waves across the industry of delusion. The moment you set your ideology to zero then anything that follows must be delusional. The denial of fallibility in this industry is surely the measure of its intelligence. But still, there is so much more to sell.

The latest link I was sent was to yet another safety consultancy promising to measure risk in employees and use data in the employment process. In its spruiking of spin it promises to select the right safe people and keep out unsafe people. Maybe an insignia on an armband or a tattooed number on a tongue would assist this process? Maybe safer people are those with blond hair and blue eyes?

Apart from the eugenic aspect of this narrative, the fact is – there is no such test. There is no psychological diagnostic that can measure risk. Even if there was, risk taking is essential for learning. So risk avoidance is anti-learning. Risk is not the enemy of safety. But this is not what is marketed to the gullible who define unsafety by the presence of risk!

Still, if one defines safety by injury data and zero ideology you are a fresh candidate for the safety con job. Bring out the necklace of plastic pearls and fake glass for the those seeking the promise of infallibility. If ever an industry needed some wisdom and discernment it is now. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the WHS Body of Knowledge or curriculum to help in the getting of wisdom.

Unfortunately, Trinket Safety is fresh and alive in an industry that is so poorly educated we can measure its ignorance by the success of the many con artists in the sector.

So, to help in discerning and wisdom here are a few tips.

  1. Any language selling risk aversion as good, is fundamentally flawed and dangerous for safety. Any organisation that is anti-learning is doomed to oblivion.
  2. A system that doesn’t accommodate the nature of humans as fallible is delusional.
  3. The projection of humans as the sum of behaviours as inputs and outputs is bound to fail and can only lead to policing and brutalism.
  4. Any suggestion that risk and safety can be measured by lower order goals is delusional and ignores 80% of all human being that cannot be measured that is essential for safety. Eg, measure these for me: trust, care, understanding, community, empathy, honesty, listening, engagement, communication, cultural literacy?
  5. The discourse of measurement is a distraction from the many essential qualitative goals the help with safety.
  6. Any individualistic focus in diagnostics of risk or safety completely overlooks the social dynamics that are the most profound influence on decision making. Any marketing in safety that is individualistic is on a trajectory to profound failure and blaming.
  7. Any marketing that sounds too good to be true is, too good to be true. Realism about human being is much more helpful in tackling risk than delusions of perfection. Zero is dangerous and nonsense language (
  8. Look at the nature of power in the marketing discourse and work out who wields it. Who will be the high priest or commander of the new system? Who and what is being demonised?
  9. Look at what is being defined as the enemy of safety and ask what would happen in the workplace if this was eradicated. Is this the kind of workplace you want?
  10. Anything that promises some sense of predictability, formula or ‘future proofing’ involving humans is always nonsense.
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.

6 Replies to “Trinket Safety”

  1. This is great, Dr. Long. I’m glad to have found others who see through the outrageous claims of snake oil salesmen. Too bad people are so dismissive of dissenting opinions that they would rather get angry than do something to improve.

  2. Thanks Jason. There’s a lot to be said for the simple human aspects of engagement, conversation and listening. The rest is often just trinkets.

  3. What next, renditions of William J Grayson’s ” The Hireling and the Slave” at morning pre-starts:

    For these great ends hath Heaven’s supreme command
    Brought the black savage from his native land,
    Trains for each purpose his barbarian mind,
    By slavery tamed, enlightened, and refined;
    Instructs him, from a master-race, to draw
    Wise modes of polity and forms of law,
    Imbues his soul with faith, his heart with love,
    Shapes all his life by dictates from above

    1. When the ideology is control in seeking to make infallible humans then Orwell’s visions come true. Ever present in the current delusions in safety re neuroscience, behaviourism and psychometrics. Goebbels would be delighted to see such developments.

  4. The “promising to measure risk in employees and use data in the employment process” is right in line with the “Safety 24/7” and “brother’s keeper” discourse. I know it “feels” wrong for many in the field, but they just can’t say exactly why. I always get a jolt when I can speak to a field employee using humble inquiry, let them know up front I recognize we are ALL fallible and should be “embracing error” and ask them to step me through what they are doing so I can learn how they make sense of risk. As that power is then transferred from me to them it is astonishing how they open up and gush about their frustrations (mostly with group space issues) and confusion about the message they hear and read and the actual execution of the safety program.

  5. Dyno, even moreso in western society infused with the ideology of individualism and cognitivism. When safety loses the reality of social affectivity it all pushes back to the individual brain and ‘wrong programing’ approach to behaviours. Next will be electric shock therapy, gulags and torture because ‘safety is a choice you make’.

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