Who Gives a Toss?
The current cricket test is between Australia and England and they play for ‘the ashes’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ashes). I guess people in Europe, USA and non-English parts of the world would find it hard to believe that two teams can play a game that goes for 5 days and still end up in a draw. One of the most critical parts of the game is the toss. This is where on the flip of a coin, heads or tails, one gets to choose to bat or bowl. This flip of the coin allows the winner to make the best use of the conditions and we call this ‘the toss’. Whilst the turf pitch is new one can take advantage of conditions before it deteriorates after a few days. The game can be won or lost on that flip of a coin just as it was in the second test (https://www.cricket.com.au/tours/The%20Ashes%202017-18%20Australia%20England/HHRxd84OsU-rC2OzT5J5-Q).
Australians accept that winning the toss on luck is an accepted part of the game. If anyone suggested that an outcome is determined or ‘fixed’ would be cheating. It is interesting that Ed Smith who wrote the book Luck was a cricketer (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/28/luck-means-ed-smith-review ). As he states in his book, it was while he watched the coin spinning in the air that he realized just how helpless he was. He defines luck as anything that is beyond ones control. The Greeks and Romans wrote about Fortuna as a terrifying, unknowable power, greater than the gods.
Nassim Taleb (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassim_Nicholas_Taleb) in writing The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness also discusses the realities of luck and limits of control in the economic world. Indeed, in his book Antifragility Taleb shows how fear and risk aversion creates new problems, new risks, new by-products and trade-offs in mechanistic efforts at control. He argues in The Bed of Procrustes that all binary constructs manufacture the ‘wrong map of reality’ that create a blindness to volatility and fragility.
Of course this is not the view of Safety that speaks the nonsense of ‘all accidents are preventable’ and ‘safety is a choice you make’. Such language can only have a trajectory of blindness to volatility. The more Safety counts TRIFR rates and statistics the more it believes it has everything under control. Indeed, the favourite word in safety is the word ‘control’.
There is another meaning to the word ‘toss’ than the flip of a coin and it’s a derogatory term in Australia for people who talk nonsense or do the wrong thing. When one is called ‘a tosser’ in Australia one has been significantly insulted. Such language has been used recently by the NSW Government to try and influence people not to litter. See the examples below:
Unfortunately, like the ‘bloody idiot’ campaign this approach doesn’t work (https://safetyrisk.net/its-projection-you-bloody-idiot/, https://safetyrisk.net/whose-the-bloody-idiot/). The semantics of insult and deficit rarely work.
Unfortunately, safety crusaders are often identified in Australia as ‘tossers’ (https://safetyrisk.net/beware-the-tossers-from-the-office/). The fixation on petty risk, counting injuries, filling out checklists and collecting paperwork that no one ever uses or discusses helps create such an identity. For a worker this is also reinforced by nonsense language that denies luck and reinforces blame. This is the language of ‘all accidents are preventable’ and ‘safety is a choice you make’.
Moreso the language of zero harm, zero harm managers, zero harm meetings and zero harm reports tells workers that the company is all about numbers not people. There can be no tolerance for mistakes in zero. There can be no luck in zero. Anything that happens is under the control of the worker, there can’t be any such thing as luck. When a fallible worker, in a fallible organization, in a fallible world undertakes a task with uncertainty (risk), there can be no toss! So Good Luck to The Luck Deniers (https://safetyrisk.net/good-luck-to-the-luck-deniers/). Even your body state changes your world (http://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/imagining-bodily-states-feeling-full-can-affect-our-future-preferences-and-behaviour).
Rob Long says
Andrew Böber says
Great post. Well set out and very informative