For The Love of Zero – Dr. Robert Long
– Brief book review by the late George Robotham
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After a number of years in OHS an observation of mine is that OHS personnel and managers have a tendency to pick up and run with safety fads. Often there is little logic in the decision to adopt the fad and less logic in the decision to continue its use.
The 2 most common complaints I have heard about Zero Harm are:
- The goal is neither realistic nor achievable. A lot of the workers thus think it is a management wank.
- People end up using lots of resources on relatively minor issues
My mentor, Geoff McDonald, talks about displacement activities, a displacement activity is something we do, something we put a lot of energy into but which there is little logical reason to do it. Zero Harm has always struck me as a displacement activity.
There has been discussion on this topic on some Linkedin OHS forums lately, to my mind many arguments have been long on emotion and short on logic.
The book is 150 pages so not a big effort to read
Major sections are-
- The attraction of zero
- The logic of zero
- The discourse of zero
- Zero dissent
- Making sense of zero
- The nature of fundamentalism
- Strategies without zero
- The humanising organisation
Rob gives a fair bit of himself in this publication and explains how his upbringing, learning and experience has led to the various conclusions about OHS, Risk and Zero Harm. There is an abundance of references that support Rob’s claims about the many problems with Zero Harm.
Rob’s arguments against Zero Harm are many and varied. Strategies without Zero is important and I particularly liked the section on learning and the Hudson model.
I would recommend this as a must read for anyone using or contemplating using a Zero Harm approach. Those not using Zero Harm will find it of general relevance in a number of OHS areas.
To sum up I would say Rob has put a factual basis on my long term gut feel that Zero Harm does more harm than good
To my mind this book is an important addition to the OHS body of knowledge