Behavioural Safety is NOT a Foundation for Tackling Psychosocial and Mental Health

imageThe foundation for behaviourism is the myth of ‘in and out’. This simplistic discipline imagines that fallible humans respond to positive and negative reinforcement like computer-like objects. Behaviour then becomes the sum of inputs and outputs. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of this is premised on false assumptions about brain-centrism and the disembodied human person.

This is why Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) doesn’t work:

  • Persons are not the sum of inputs and outputs.
  • Motivation doesn’t work on in and out of negative or positive reinforcement.
  • Perception and observation are subjective interpreted process.
  • Critical goals are never simple and NOT measurable.

Without a Social and Holistic understandings of persons, Safety will continue to maintain the delusions of BBS. Behavioural safety is not a ‘step towards’ the humanising of persons in risk but a ‘step away’ from the right trajectory (

We don’t ‘win over hearts and minds (brains)’, we work with ‘hearts and Minds (persons)’.

Just audit any of the language used in Behavioural Safety and listen for the silences. Listen to its noise. It’s never about persons, care, helping, ethics, listening, tolerance, learning or understanding. It’s what you do over and to people not with people.

And, it doesn’t matter what ‘type’ of BBS one proposes (, the very foundation of behaviourism is a delusion.

If you want to improve your culture at work, or Psychosocial and Mental Health, the last thing you need is behaviourism ( ).

Behavioural Safety has the wrong view of persons indeed, it doesn’t articulate an ethic of personhood. Indeed, you will find nowhere in the safety world an articulation of ‘an ethic of personhood’.

Behavioural Safety is a recipe for brutalism.

The language of Behavioural Safety is the perfect recipe for dehumanising persons with Psychosocial and Mental Health issues. Persons are not the sum of behaviours indeed, many behaviours mask personhood.

Behavioural Safety loves to talk about ‘baselines’, ‘targets’, ‘observer training’, percentages’, ‘scores’, ‘performance’, ‘data’, ‘recording’, ‘inventories’, ‘feedback’, ‘monitoring’, ‘frequency’ (Cooper 2001 pp. 242-252). Just listen to the language – humans are not objects, products or hazards but Behavioural Safety makes them so.

All of this language in Behavioural Safety is toxic for Psychosocial and Mental Health.

And the darling of BBS is zero, the enemy of Psychosocial and Mental Health.

Any professional in Psychosocial and Mental Health knows that the beginning of helping is tolerance.

The language of BBS and zero is intolerance.

Even when BBS uses the language of ‘hearts and minds’, it’s never about hearts and minds ( And it has no cognizance of its own linguistics. It doesn’t know what it is saying. And don’t tell me that persons are ‘implied’ in Behavioural Safety language, what utter nonsense. Words matter, meaning matters and the grammar of risk matters. You cannot make the absence of critical language evidence of care for persons. Indeed, there is nowhere in Safety that care ethics even gets a mention (eg, AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics)

Fortunately, it only takes a few years of Behavioural Safety and its brutalism that organisations ditch the mythology and start to think about care and helping (

At the foundation of Behavioural Safety is a mono-disciplinary method of knowing. In its quest for Scientism, it remains closed to ways of knowing that doesn’t suit its version of scientific method. It imagines some notion of objective knowing, and some idea of a fixed notion of knowledge that suits its own definition of reality. This is why Behavioural Safety must rubbish any approach to Transdisciplinarity or critical thinking by other disciplines. The last thing Behavioural Safety can do is take seriously the claims of other disciplines that critique the foundations of its bias.

For Behavioural Safety there is only one reality and its mechanical, material, observable and measurable. No wonder it never talks about persons.

· Such a discipline has nothing to say to First Nations people.

· Such a discipline has nothing to say to the 5 billion people on the planet who take faith seriously.

· Those who take faith seriously work in organisations that apparently now seek to tackle Psychosocial and Mental Health with no capability to connect, support, help or listen on matters of faith.

· And a discipline of Safety that never speaks of religion or spirituality in its ‘noise’ about culture. Such dismissal is evidence of the narrow-minded paradigm of an industry that only envisions objects.

When we speak of Mental Health we don’t mean ‘brain health’. Indeed, if one entertains the idea of the whole person and the embodied fallible person, then none of the assumptions of Behavioural Safety fit.

When it comes to Psychosocial and Mental Health there are no ‘fixes’, no ‘controls’ and 90% of what is presented is unseen, unconscious and invisible.

Many Government services recognise spirituality as a critical dimension to holism and Mental Health









Not so Safety.

More silence, more denial, more mono-disciplinary fortress, closed to ways of knowing it refuses to engage or understand. This is because the closed mindedness of Behavioural Safety dominates the safety airwaves.

Unless Safety embraces a Transdisciplinary approach to Psychosocial and Mental Health it is most likely already doing more harm than good. Zero harm indeed. All of this a recipe for a toxic workplace.

If you do want to understand a holistic approach to persons there are free many books, videos, blogs, courses and methods from SPoR that can help.


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