Zero is not a Target or Vision, it’s a Language/Discourse
Here is a podcast on the 1% safer concept (https://www.safeopedia.com/one-percent-safer-through-vision-zero-and-marginal-gains/2/8831) and it provides a clear insight into the ideology of zero and 1%.
How fascinating this strained idea that there is a distinction between setting zero as a target, a goal or a ‘vision’. The ideology of zero no matter how it is presented is a language and embeds a discourse (https://www.routledge.com/An-Introduction-to-Discourse-Analysis-Theory-and-Method/Gee/p/book/9780415725569 ). If you entertain the idea of zero ideology then the assumption and frame for thinking is numeric and in denial of fallibility. Just listen to this podcast and the continued roll out of metrics and numerics. It’s all about the reduction of numbers. You hear no language of: personhood, care, helping and ethical practice.
And here is the claim: ‘we can get 1% safer through zero vision!’ and just how does that work? How does the language of zero inspire and motivate anyone? How does an ethic of numerics connect with people who don’t give a s*#t about counting and just want to work safely? There is indeed no connection between zero vision and safe work. It’s a language used to spruik a marketing campaign, it’s not a strategy (https://safetyrisk.net/essential-elements-for-a-safety-strategy/). It’s marketing that attributes meaning to a number. There is as much value in this propaganda as: mums for safety, meerkats, safety sophie, Hazardman, pickles or any of the other of the meaningless campaigns that show that Safety doesn’t know what to do.
So, by the time you get 10 minutes into this podcast you realize it’s all about the mythology of measurement. The focus is on performance and measurement mythology, so nothing different here, just more traditional safety.
The packaging of ‘nudge theory’ is rolled out which of course has been discredited (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320969370_Nudge_Concept_Effectiveness_and_Ethics ; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305931068_The_Afflictions_of_Behavioral_Economics_Nudge ; https://hbr.org/2016/04/why-nudging-your-customers-can-backfire ), and the podcast even raises the pejorative notion of the ‘subconscious’. Of course typical of Safety, the unconscious is not a topic for discussion nor the by-products and trade offs of zero/1% ideology. However, for the assumptions of this presentation ‘nudge theory’ serves the purpose of attributing value to minor marginal ‘gains’ (whatever that means).
The other language common in this podcast is the behaviourist frame. Numbers, performance and behaviours, the darlings of traditional safety. One of the speakers describes zero vision as ‘an emotional door opener’. Astounding, all my research shows that this ideology is the most divisive idea in the safety industry. Most safety practitioners simply don’t believe it (https://safetyrisk.net/take-the-zero-survey/ ). Safety people remain silent in the face of zero ideology because they know it is the mantra of management and they don’t want to lose their job. Still never mind, for the purposes of this podcast any unsubstantiated attribution to zero is OK.
By the time you get to the middle of the podcast the assertion that zero vision is different than target zero becomes the topic for discussion. Then out comes the binary opposition argument of what kind of language can a CEO speak to people, all under the assumption that zero is the only language to be spoken. (How funny that silence on zero is never entertained).
Then one of the speakers says he’s a realist and knows that zero can never be reached and then just proceeds with the binary argument that there is no other language to be used – this from people with no expertise in linguistics or semiotics. So, outcomes the tired old language of the straw man, set up a CEO who has to tell people there will be injuries. More infantile logic under the binary assumption of measurement discourse. These projections in argument are binary, immature and lack sophistication, perfect for zero ideology. It is by this stage that the podcast affirms that 1% safe and zero vision are the same thing.
When you language and ideology is zero, there can be no envisioning (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/). When your vision is zero all that can follow is traditional safety.
Once you get past the idea of a 1% pledge the question of turning an idea into action is raised. And after all the discussion it remains an idea (https://onepercentsafer.com/the-idea/) not a strategy. There is nothing connected to this discussion about what works. Or go to the 1% safer website and there it is numbers, numbers, numbers. Apparently this is a movement and by assertion it works? Like zero ideology there is actually nothing different in all of this that one can do! Go to the global zero site and try to find something different that works, it doesn’t exist. Everything is just more of the same, traditional safety: counting, systems, policing and injury rates. It’s a marketing campaign. Make a pledge and something will happen.
If you want to actually do something that works beyond an idea and want to move away from zero so that safety will improve (https://safetyrisk.net/moving-away-from-zero-so-that-safety-improves/), perhaps a different book is for you: https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/