Zero is Not a Noble Goal
Recently I saw some marketing that zero was a ‘noble aim’, nothing could be more absurd. More so, when one is trying to dismantle it. The idea of something being ‘noble’ is either associated with rank and nobility, showing fine moral principles or elite qualities. Zero as a goal and ideology is none of these. Noble goals are immeasurable goals (https://safetyrisk.net/goals-and-vision-in-safety/).
There is nothing noble about setting a numeric goal of infinity for fallible people. Such Discourse hides the deeply unethical nature of setting impossible goals for people, in fallible organisations, a random world and in fallible systems. The by-product of such language can only ever end in brutalism. There can be no ethic in zero (https://safetyrisk.net/no-ethic-of-hope-in-zero/) neither does this global mantra receive any mention in the AIHS BoK on Ethics (https://safetyrisk.net/the-aihs-bok-and-ethics-check-your-gut/). The last thing we want to discuss in an unethical commentary on ethics is the elephant in the room, the global mantra of zero!
To simply interpret this number as a goal depreciates all that is hidden in its Discourse and ideology. Language is not neutral and zero is not just a word, neither is zero just a goal. Zero is both a language and ideology that frames the identity of the global safety industry (http://visionzero.global/node/6 ). The safety industry is the zero industry and its symbol for identity is a numeric word. If you want to find out just how powerful a symbol it is, just try to question it or take it away. You would have more chance of removing the Olympic rings from the Olympiad.
For some time zero has been the darling ideology of an industry without vision. One thing is guaranteed in Safety language is that if something is declared ‘visionary’, you can be sure it is the opposite. This is an industry that sets as its goal a number that can be never achieved and creates schism and fragmentation across itself. In the zero survey (https://safetyrisk.net/take-the-zero-survey/) I commissioned a few months ago and with over 1000 participants 97% of people in the safety industry do not believe in zero and 87% believe that zero is unethical.
One thing for sure, zero is all about belief and anti-vision. The language that surrounds this religious mantra is all about faith in the impossible and belief in faith. What a strange industry that loves engineering and science so much that it fills itself with religious discourse. Just analyze any of the discourse on the ISSA website on zero (http://visionzero.global/why-vision-zero) and you will see just how religious and cultic it is. Come on down and get your ‘golden rules’! (http://visionzero.global/Guides) You can get a full analysis of the religion of zero here: https://safetyrisk.net/no-evidence-for-the-religion-of-zero/
Of course zero is foundational to the global safety congress on safety 2021 (https://www.safety2021canada.com/session-summary/). Once you anchor to zero it is nearly impossible to take it away, such is the power of its binary ideology. How funny that the session on zero proposed for the convention in 2021 (https://www.safety2021canada.com/session-recordings/#BreakoutC ), is called ‘zero in motion’. Of course, zero is about stasis, there is only risk in motion and there can be no zero unless risk is eliminated. Again, Safety does so well at describing something by what it is not. Zero vision is the by-product of zero ideology.
There is nothing ‘noble’ in the dehumanization of persons. There is nothing ethical in brutalism. Numerics is not an indictor of safety yet, Safety continues to count TRIFR, LTIs etc. and declare that zero is a noble aim.