Guilt and Shame, The By-Products of Safety-Zero

One of the first things educators learn is that the projection of guilt and shame anchored to ‘performance’ is a disaster. It doesn’t matter whether this ‘performance’ is in maths or theatre, the subjectivities of measurement and the way they are declared, can create enormous distress and psychosocial issues.

One of the things Zero loves, is parading and declaring statistics about ‘performance’, then attributing meaning to them. This is how we end up with nonsense notions such as ‘1% safer’. Such discourse is completely meaningless but appeals to a non-critical thinking industry addicted to numerics and metrics. Then once the addiction is anchored, continue with traditional safety strategies (renamed as ‘different’) by: hiding injuries, bullying people, suppressing reporting, policing regulation, controlling and counting hazards and, completing volumes of paperwork.

We know that openly declaring, ranking and comparing performance between fallible people is unhelpful. So called ‘reality tv’ is a good example.

Reality TV shows that openly compare people to each other in performance never show you the aftermath or by-products they create. Many of these shows are astoundingly unethical ( and are harmful ( It is well known that these shows cause long term psychosocial harm ( and suicide ( But these ‘shows’ continue, because people want to view the theatrics of suffering in others. It sells for tv producers and was documented so well by Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death (

But it’s not just the contestants who suffer psychosocial harm. This kind of tv also injures viewers (;

I remember when my son was doing his Multimedia degree at university so much of his first year of study was about the ethics of so-called ‘reality tv’. Of course, it is the opposite of reality. Only the ignorant and naïve would think that this kind of tv ‘show’ is not manufactured for its audience and sponsors. This is how ideologies work.

When the cameras stop and the show is over, what are the by-products ( It seems that entertainment and the amusement of others’ pain sells ratings and attracts sponsors.

Unfortunately, in the risk and safety world the word ‘performance’ means measurement. Eg. how is your organisation performing in safety? Usually measured by injury rates or the so-called ‘presence of positives’.

Neither lag nor lead indicators are a measure of ‘safety performance’. Such are one of the greatest myths in safety.

I find it so amusing that all of this goop that floats about safety about ‘performance’ never discusses the criticality of ethics or moral responsibility. Ethics is irrelevant just as long as the injury rate gets to zero. The AIHS ‘duty” ethic is to safety NOT persons (

One of the worst culprits of psychosocial injury in safety is BBS. The way BBS communicates and polices safety is brutal. Anything goes as long as injury rates decline, this is the safety-zero mantra. Bullying and brutalism of fallible people is ok, as long as injury rates decline. This is what the ideology of zero creates as by-products (

Recent research shows that tactics like those used in BBS ( create harmful by-products. They injure people psychosocially. This is because safety numerics come first NOT people. Neither, will you find any discourse in BBS about ethics or moral meaning.

The strategies and intelligence of BBS (from a low curriculum base) simply doesn’t have the sophistication to understand its own by-products. Neither does it have the skills to understand the difference between guilt, shame and blame. None of this is discussed in any BBS literature. Everything is driven by ‘safety performance’ NOT the well-being of people. This is what zero ideology, zero language and behaviourism create.

Guilt is the strategic choice of BBS, which is why BBS doesn’t ‘work’. By ‘work’ we mean, if people have to be dehumanised to get ‘safety results’ then whatever you are doing, doesn’t work’


Unless Safety jettisons zero, safety can’t improve (

I always find it amusing in all of the safety literature about ‘psychosocial hazards’ ( that there is no discussion about how the methods of safety itself create psychosocial harm. It couldn’t possibly be that anything like the ideology of zero, BBS or nonsense like 1% safer could possibly cause harm. When you avoid the language of fallibility and mortality, one begins to think their own strategies and by-products are infallible ( ).

Just imagine you work in a zero organisation and you are the first one injured that month or year. Just imagine you went to a ‘zero event’ ( where perfectionism is normalised ( and then you have to report an injury? Of course, we know what follows is ‘safety gymnastics’, trying to find every possible way to make sure the injury goes away.

What this creates is the most unethical fraudulence ( but fraudulence is OK as long as the injury rate is zero.

It is simply nonsense to promote zero, sponsor zero and advocate for zero without ignoring the by-products of guilt, shame and blame and, their psychosocial harmful outcomes.


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