Gimmicks and Myths of Avoidance in Safety

imageSomeone sent me a thing the other day labelled as ‘brilliance’ and it was yet just another safety gimmick that yet again served as a distraction from discussing the essentials in safety – listening, helping, caring and learning.

This is what safety does so well. It creates gimmicks and labels them as ‘thought leading’ or thought bubbles and labels them ‘brilliant’ only to sell some ‘trinket to the natives’ as a strategy of avoidance. This idea was about a pre-job meeting and ‘gathering information’.

Whenever we see a safety gimmick the key is to analyse the language and the source of power. Listen for what is missing, observe what language is used and not used. Most often the gimmick involves a symbolic myth wither in text, symbol or gesture.

Gimmicks by definition are designed to attract attention and by design draw attention away from something else. It is one of the great devices of Propaganda. Create a distraction and name it as what it is not and sell the ‘kool aid’ as a health drink. This is the code of Safety.

Gimmicks have no value and promise much but include nothing of substance. Often a slogan is attached to the gimmick but the methodology and method is hidden. Indeed, when a set of slogans is presented as a method, there is none. Slogans are a gimmick of distraction to avoid attention to the basics.

For the undiscerning ( who lack skills in critical thinking ( the promise of substance in slogans is an illusion. The when the memory of the gimmick dwindles one wonders why it didn’t work, and wait for the next gimmick from some proclaimed guru to sell another gimmick. Or, one returns to traditional safety because one discovers that the gimmick has no substance. This is also known as Yo-Yo safety (

It’s like the burden of the myth of the ‘safety moment’ or ‘safety share’. Once the myth of the gimmick fades the poor old worker is left with yet another burden of obligation that doesn’t help them tackle risk. In Building and Construction in Australia such a useless obligation is the White Card.

The trouble is once a myth is empowered by symbolism it is nearly impossible to jettison.

This is how Safety creates endless bureaucracy and process that add nothing to ‘helping’ workers tackle risk. Industrial manslaughter is the same (

This is how the industry ends up with so much useless paperwork that adds nothing of value to risk assessment and importantly has no legal value (

This is how the industry ends up with useless gimmicks like Bow-Tie, Matrices, Swiss-Cheese etc that create obligation and distraction so that we once again lose sight of the fundamentals – listening, care, helping and learning. And we know this is real, because there still remains no focus on these basics in any safety curriculum or incident investigation across the globe.

3. PAPERWORK from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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