Asking the Wrong Questions

Asking the Wrong Questions to Get the Expected Answer in Safety

imageWhen you define safety by injury rates the question asked is: ‘How many people do you want injured today?’ When safety is defined by zero, the same and similar questions emerge. The classic ad conducted by NSW Transport ( ) is an example of this unethical, manipulated questioning.

This is how a wrong assumption drives wrong (unethical) questioning.

Safety is not defined by the absence or presence of injury. Just because no one is being harmed doesn’t mean the workplace is safe. Unfortunately, this definition/assumption of safety as harm, drives questions built on binary opposition ( ). Binary opposition drives unethical questioning.

The questioning that emerges from binary opposition is unethical, it seeks entrapment through either/or questions. Either/or questioning is loaded, such as is the question at the start of this blog. Such questioning is manipulative and makes no allowance for a non-numerical answer or doubt. Such a question doesn’t allow for any other answer than zero.

The best way to tackle loaded unethical questions, is to question the question. Why are you asking me this? What is your agenda? Why are you asking such a manipulative question? Why is your question seeking a numerical answer? Why have you chosen to make numerics shape your question? Why do you ask questions that intimidate and seek to manipulate me? Perhaps ask them a binary question back: ‘How long have you been asking unethical questions?’ to make your point. When anyone asks you a manipulative unethical question, don’t answer it.

I look at this vile unethical ad from NSW Transport and think of other dumb loaded unethical questions like, ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’

Watch this ad and see how the question humiliates the actor. See how it manipulates the person and seeks to harm this man psychologically? This is how safety uses the end to justify the means. Because my god is Zero, I can question how I like!

Wrong questions are unethical questions that say much more about the questioner than the person being questioned. Unethical questions don’t give power to the other but claim power over others in the mode of the question. Of course, without an ethic of risk in the safety industry but a deontological micky mouse tirade ( ), why would any safety curriculum study the ethical nature of questioning? ( ). As long as the answer is zero, it doesn’t matter what question is asked, right? Wrong!

Questions that bring power to the self and disempower others are unethical questions and never seek an honest answer. Such questions don’t even allow conversation or reflective listening. Such questions only seek the response the question wants to hear, such questions have nothing to do with listening, empowering others, conversation or safety. How vile and disgusting is this. I am not your object Zero to play with.

Once Safety accepts the ideology of Zero, the two combine on an unethical crusade. Then when this two-legged race gets going on an investigation it continues to ask wrong unethical questions seeking the answer it already knows. Doesn’t take long till it trips over.

This approach to questioning is common in all the dominant incident investigation methods in safety, and it is sickening. Please name for me one incident investigation package on the market that discusses the ethics of questioning or ethics as a part of investigation methodology, hmmm I thought so. How professional.

Binary Opposition and the Logic of Safety from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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