I read with interest this piece by ASSP in EHS Today (Leading safety Professionals Into the Future). More propaganda from a sector known for its policing, paperwork and zero. Interestingly, the article confirms in its first paragraph that this is how safety people are perceived.
The article goes on to propose that Covid-19 has all of a sudden turned safety cops into an educated, intelligent, humanizing and people-centric industry. And that’s just the first paragraph. How fascinating that doctors, nurses, health providers and epidemiologists have lost their place as leaders in health information.
Ah, in comes Safety to save the day! Talk about an industry struggling for identity. BTW none of the professions on the forefront of Covid have to spend all their time telling you they are professional, only insecure Safety does.
Then when the article proceeds we see more moderate language from the incoming president (Diana Stegall) of the ASSP who asserts ‘we need to get involved … because it is about taking a look at risk’.
What a sensible assertion except only trouble is, safety is about objects and policing and knows precious little about risk. Safety is the industry of objects and hazards, this is why it is a police force. And it will remain a police force until the day it’s curriculum shifts, Body of Knowledge develops and it learns to dump zero. When the global mantra is zero how on earth can this industry talk sensibly about the reality of risk! (http://visionzero.global/node/6). Zero is about risk denial – Safety/Zero has never understood how Risk Makes Sense (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/risk-makes-sense/ )
Unfortunately, the real evolution of the safety industry is bogged down in excessive bureaucracy, compliance and indoctrination (https://safetyrisk.net/first-in-best-dressed-for-indoctrination/). And so, it doesn’t take long in the article till the mythology of the Hierarchy of Controls is trotted out and discussion drifts onto the favourite of Safety – PPE. Of course safety loves Covid-19 the perfect opportunity to police PPE!
So, by the second paragraph of the article we get into the important stuff, PPE. Doesn’t safety love PPE, the prefect medium to assert power and police others!
By the time we get to paragraph 3 of the article we are right into it ‘hazard assessment’, What? Two paragraphs before it was about risk ah! But now we have to get back to what Safety loves, hazards. So, it’s on to cleaning and wearing PPE properly, compliance, awareness and yes, policing. Oh dear.
You can read the rest yourself, concluding with your opportunity to ‘shine’ with all those skills Safety has not received from the standard safety indoctrination curriculum. Of course those skills are not called ‘people skills’ but the derogatory ‘soft skills’, implying that the real skills are the ‘hard skills’ that Safety does so well: policing, PPE and paperwork.
So, the platform for the ASSP for 2020-21 is: Covid, total worker health and value the industry. No mention of zero, no mention of the religious mantra that keeps the industry fixated to counting, reporting and policing. No mention of that symbolic zero that tells Safety everyday that safety is about injury rates, PPE and policing. And the final paragraph makes very clear that Safety knows precious little about ‘total worker health’. If Safety knew anything about total worker health, it could never preach zero. Zero is what keeps Safety from being holistic.
No wonder the industry has zero vision.
Interesting to read this now in hindsight and to realise how wrong a lot of what was done in the name of safety turned out to be the opposite. Many of the measures I encountered wete laughable but policed with fervour.
Brent R Charlton says
When I first read this from ASSP back in June I just had to shake my head. It really made me question whether to spend another membership dime with this organization. My most common answer to COVID prevention questions has been “I don’t know, let’s go find out.” Where I go to find out is not ASSP or other safety professionals – it’s CDC and others who have actually dealt with infectious disease prevention. After all, I don’t ask bicycle mechanics to fix my car or a plumber to frame my new house!
Rob Long says
Brent, you are spot on here. It’s all about political territory and then duplication to claim some sort of expertise where there is none. What is most important is membership to the group, not competence or expertise. Safety anxiety about always being in control, always knowing everything and always taking power in what is going on, and then they claim the word ‘professional’. So much of this fixation by safety on Covid demonstrates just how amateurish the industry is.
Another intriguing and narcissistic corporate title that sets my blood boiling is “Vice President of Safety”. It is most common amongst US corporations.
You never meet the President of Safety and the panjandrum is often employed like a creative accountant who circumvents legislation on behalf of the organisation to avoid paying tax.
“Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.”….Honore de Balzac
Hans Johst allegedly proclaimed………”Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.”
Whenever I hear the term safety professional I reach for my Kalashnikov.
This turgid sludge from the ASSP even surpasses the relentless bilge from Australia’s peak safety body.
Rob long says
Oh yes Bernard, don’t you know PPE is the measure of professionalism
So, according to ASSP, Safety Professionals should now be focussing on risk rather than just hazards – what an amazing revelation. That article has caused many to question thier membership of ASSP
Rob long says
You can change the label but it’s all about zero and engineering. What a fascinating icon fir the ASSP, PPE as how to express what you love.
Edward Chainani says
Ouch! (Just received my ASSP member T-shirt and coffee mug)
Rob Long says
Funny how ASSP loves Safety, I would have thought the key to safety is a love of people. However, the real message is ‘I love PPE’
I’ve had that discussion with them but they don’t get it – their latest tshirt is a black cat with a hard hat that says “cool cats wear PPE” – I tried to talk to them about all the semiotics of that but nothing……
Rob Long says
Safety thinks semiotics is a sports jacket.