Cultural Silences in Safety – Power and Politics


There are so many profound silences in safety (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/ ) when it spruiks its propaganda about culture. How astounding to speak of culture but never mention power, politics and ethics! How breathtaking to read all this safety goop and never hear a question about power, ethics and politics.

Silence on power, ethics and politics enables free reign of all three disguised as safety.

An example of this is the upcoming EHS Conference, so much promotion of egos not safety (See Figure 1. EHS 2022) (https://ehscongress.com/download-agenda/ ), propaganda about traditional safety (watch the video below ) and behaviourist Discourse. So much language about measures, performance and outcomes and the elephant in the room – ethics, power and politics.

Figure 1. EHS 2022

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Of course, there are plenty of the old cherries to be picked: predictive analytics, data, injury counting, talk of learning that is not learning, talk on culture that is not culture, talk of paradigms that is not about methodology and lots of talk about ‘differently’ that is not different (https://safetyrisk.net/the-safety-and-new-view-debate/ ). Packaging and marketing behaviorism as ‘different’ is not different. At last Dominic is there to tell it like it is.

As a good example of the culture of the workshop (evident in semiotics, language, discourse and aesthetics), read a few congress example promos:

We have already discussed one such promo here: https://safetyrisk.net/more-safety-code-to-disguise-behaviourism/ that advocated that people think safety before being good!

Such an idea shows just how bankrupt this industry is ethically, morally and ideologically.

Another promo is HERE  and here we see the normalization of hero to ego, culture described as ‘property’ and people described as ‘components’ in a system. More behaviourist language where people are objects and power is attributed to the system.

It’s one thing to talk about critical thinking, learning and debate but quite another to actually engage in it.

Indeed, the only presentation at this conference that mentions ‘power’ is Dekker but unfortunately, it is not a discussion of the politics or ethics of power but has its focus on the ‘flow of information in safety’.

At least Dekker offers a few good questions but in safety we never hear about an ethic of personhood, the politics of power in systems, dehumanization and methods to tackle the demonization of persons as objects. Similarly, the language of helping, care and community receive no mention. The discourse of the agenda is behaviourist, except for Dekker who hopefully will demolish Zero. There is no greater Archetype of power in the safety industry than this.

What is reliable in the conference is no discussion or presentation on any of the cultural silences in safety (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/ ). Clear confirmation of all that is normalized in safety in its fear of Transdisciplinarity (https://safetyrisk.net/transdisciplinarity-and-worldviews-in-risk/ ).

Whilst one presenter mentions the word ‘paradigm’ it is not about paradigms. Such is the code of safety (https://safetyrisk.net/deciphering-safety-code/ ). Safety code is a wonderful mask and echo chamber (https://safetyrisk.net/echo-chambers-and-thinking-about-risk/ ) for non-learning.

I was asked to present at this conference but I don’t identify with any of this. None of his resonates with a Social Psychology of Risk.

So, if you want to better understand the dynamics of power in safety you won’t find it in the AIHS Chapter on Ethics either (https://safetyrisk.net/the-aihs-bok-and-ethics-check-your-gut/ ). Simply astounding.

Indeed, the best sources on ethics, power and risk are NOT sourced in risk and safety. You will find no reverence to any of these in any safety curriculum globally. Astounding.

The best sources in understanding risk, power, ethics and politics are found from those in: Critical Theory, Post-Structuralism, Feminism, Cultural Theory, Historiography, Ethnography, Linguistics, Semiotics, Phenomenology and Social Psychology. None of these disciplines are of any interest to Safety in curriculum or pedagogy. Yet all of these are 101 for real professions.

You certainly will not find texts by Foucault, Giroux , Deleuze, Fromm, Noddings, Apple or a host of essential thinkers on the nature of power in any safety curriculum. Nor is there any discussion in safety about learning that involves a pedagogy or curriculum that considers power and ethics in learning. Such for the noise of learning in safety. There is also no discussion on the myth of objectivity and how this too enables the abuse of power.

Unless Safety embraces a Transdisciplinary approach to risk that includes discussion on ethics, politics and power, it will remain a form of Behaviourist robotics that talks about ‘differently’ that does nothing that’s different.



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