What Does Safety Achieve? Have You Heard the Latest Safety Joke?
An Archetype is not the sum of individuals in a group. An Archetype is the representation of a mindset/culture that belongs to a group. In the nature of Safety this is best known through the work of associations, regulators and common discourse. Whenever I use the capitalised word Safety, it always intends definition of the Archetype (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-is-not-a-person-safety-as-an-archetype/).
We see this ‘mindset’ (Archetype) everywhere. It is a way of thinking (worldview) that imagines there is only one worldview, the safety engineering worldview. Such a worldview shows no interest in a Transdisciplinary understanding but rather seeks confirmation within its own echo chamber. This is what we saw recently with this article on ‘The Value of Safety’ (https://www.ioshmagazine.com/2023/04/26/value-safety). This is what we see in the AIHS BoK.
What we end up with from this echo chamber is a constant reaffirmation of its own assumptions and confirmations of an engineering worldview that provides commentary on everything from psychosocial health, culture and education. And while it madly runs about invoking rituals, myths and religious discourse in the name of safety, it shows no interest in understanding its own religiosity. Indeed, why would safety engineers include Religion (or Anthropology) in a study of culture?
This Archetype is not just delivered by associations and regulators but catches on by osmosis so that we see in many places thousands of versions of ‘This Toaster is Hot’. So, the outcome and value of Safety is not competence but rather a joke. Similarly, my son had to attend a silica workshop for certification a week ago along with 20 other Carpenters and the outcome of the workshop was not education and learning but further promotion of safety as the grand joke!
I was in a shopping centre the other day with a 4 year-old grandchild and he was attracted to this car. (See Figures, 1, 2, 3)
What stood out to me about this car serves was an exemplar of the Safety Archetype and ‘mindset’. And I wonder what Safety (as Archetype) seeks to say about itself? Of what value is Safety if workers think it is a joke? What is the real value of Safety? Does it think for a few seconds that much of its semiotics convey the opposite of what it seeks to convey? That its messaging fosters harm? After all, Safety has shown no interest in the study of Semiotics to date globally.
So, here we have this attractive flashing car that is intentionally low, like many racing cars. And, the ride requires payment of $3 (and credit card), which most 3-4 year olds don’t have. It takes some persuasion of someone else or a tantrum, to get a ride. So, without ride availability, the next best attraction is to climb on it. Remember, most children of this age can’t read and love to climb.
So, here we have a sticker on this ride that states in text ‘no climbing’ with some kind of superhero on the bonnet pointing a finger at the driver. (This fixation of Safety on heroes and gurus is sickening (https://safetyrisk.net/no-gurus-no-stars-no-heroes-needed-in-safety/).
So, I asked my grandchild what he thought it meant and he thought it meant that superheroes jump on bonnets of the car, which is what he did. He didn’t know the symbol of a line through a circle means ‘don’t’. He thought the sticker was an encouragement to climb on the car, the natural inclination of children. This then created a conflict with the guardian when he did what he thought the sticker encouraged. Well done, Safety!
When we read engineering worldviews on safety and the Value of Safety, why is there no thought of engagement with worldviews other than their own? Why is there so little will in Safety to step outside the scope of its own closed expertise? Then, present on matters with which it has no expertise? Why do people then get presented with simplistic nonsense on culture, psychosocial risk, ethics, learning, values and semiotics with no expertise, knowledge or experience in any of it? Then we get comment that such presentations are wonderful from an industry that is provided with few skills in deconstruction, critical thinking or analysis. This is how safety creates its own dangerous myths, many of which lead to increased harm.
Of course, what this sticker represents is the mindset and Archetype of Safety. And of course, none of this provides any legal value indeed, on most occasions Safety generates legal liability by many of the myths, rituals and paperwork it creates! (https://vimeo.com/showcase/3938199 ) Then it parades ignorance, fraudulence and incompetence as ‘thought leadership’ in safety. Or worse, as ‘professional’.
This is what we see in the latest venture into psychosocial ‘hazards’ (https://safetyrisk.net/what-is-psychosocial-safety/). Just have a listen to what a leading lawyer in safety thinks of this. But then again, why would a safety engineer want to listen to a lawyer unless they were in the dock under oath?
I look at the recommendations projected by the US National Safety Council (NSC) from this article in the IOSH magazine (https://safetyrisk.net/you-can-fool-someone-some-of-the-time-but-you-can-fool-safety-all-of-the-time/) and despair at the retarded view paraded as ‘thought leadership’. Here is Safety, happily parading ‘OHS values’ that are NOT values, seeking integration for imagined ‘gaps’ it creates itself and deeper confirmation of a worldview that at best, contributes further to the ‘safety joke’.
3. PAPERWORK from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.
Brent Charlton says
Having been through your seminar (which I highly recommend) I get the semiotics issue. I would see this example, in the US anyway, as a misguided attempt at liability avoidance. “Don’t sue us over your kids broken arm, we told him not to climb on the car!” Similar to the warning to not use the hair dryer in the tub. Silly, but often driven by our litigious society rather than any real concern over someone getting hurt. Same silly shit is done in workplaces as well, of course.
Rob Long says
Sadly, Safety shows no interest in Transdisciplinarity or anything outside of its engineering worldview.
Of course, none of this stuff works and is mostly used against you when things go wrong. It demonstrates an awareness of liability, perfect ground for a lawyer to begin an assault.
Greg Smith often comes into organisations with just one question: can you prove the effectiveness of your crucial systems? In other words, how do you know your safety systems work? because everytime you count an injury, you count the number of times it doesn’t work. Yet, safety does sweet FA to question its own systems, projecting blame on the worker is much easier than questioning your systems.
Brent Charlton says
I’ve learned a lot from Greg’s stuff. Should all be required study