Vision Can’t Come from Safety Compliance
One of the spin offs, trade-offs and by-products of Vision Zero is a lack of vision. The idea of vision comes from more than just seeing something but rather seeing beyond something. I will be writing about this in my next book Envisioning Risk, Signs and Symbols in Risk.
The language of zero is the language of absolutes. Its resultant ideology seeks total compliance in its quest for utopia, the necessity of zero harm. It must do this because it is built on an either/or binary logic. The trouble is the ideology of utopia always results in political dystopia. Once person’s virtue is someone else’s vice.
The quest for perfection must punish all non-compliance. Non-compliance is the challenge of the safety industry. The more safety pursues a compliance agenda the less it can be visionary. Being visionary requires the ability to think outside and beyond the square yet compliance cannot tolerate stepping outside of the square. Compliance thinking and the absolute of zero must drive risk aversion and is therefore anti-learning, anti-adaptability and anti-flexibility. The language of zero by natural trajectory must drive risk aversion. So don’t go looking for vision in Safety, Safety cannot be visionary because it is absorbed with its own assumptions and self-congratulation. To step outside of safety compliance requires questioning, possibilities, critical thinking and adaptability, all things Safety seeks to suppress.
Having vision requires imagination, the capability to look outside the boundaries created by institutions protecting territory, egos and power. The visionaries of history were non-compliant questioners who struggled against the validation of compliance by orthodoxy. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon or Bob Dylan spoke out against injustice that was authenticated by compliance with orthodoxy. In Australia, visionaries like Caroline Chisholm, Jack Lang, Henry Lawson and Germaine Greer were pilloried by orthodoxy and only now much later have been recognized as visionary (Russell Ward The Greats, Heroes, larrikins, Leaders and Visionaries). Bruggermann suggests that having vision requires ‘Prophetic Imagination’ that is, the ability to ‘foretell’ and ‘forthtell’ reality.
One thing is for sure, the discourse of zero is not about foretelling anything because it is bogged down in a numeric as a symbol of nothing in denial of fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/). There is nothing quite so pathetic as orthodoxy patting itself on the back because it has quashed all rebellion.
You don’t need to be prophetic to know that the ideology of zero must lead to brutalism. You don’t need to be prophetic to know that checkbox thinking is endemic in safety. You don’t need to be prophetic to know that nothing is changing in safety when regulators and engineers are put in place to facilitate reform. When the key to safety is policing then all vision erodes.
Without a sense of transdisciplinarity there can be no vision coming from Safety. Without an ethic of safety there can be no ‘profession’ of safety. When the SIA publish league tables of LTIs (https://safetyrisk.net/the-safety-data-delusion/ ) you know that there will be no vision coming from there. Unless there is radical reform of the WHS curricula (https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/ ) there can be no vision coming from Safety.
Vision is about Hope. Vision is about ethical justice and the humanizing of risk. Explore any list of people defined as visionaries and these qualities are foundational for defining vision. An industry pre-occupied with objects, mechanics, numerics and policing cannot even understand this when its propagandist language is ‘vision zero’.