Health, the Poor Cousin of Safety

imageThe use of OHS, WHS and AIHS really doesn’t indicate the way Safety works. There is no sense of balance of Safety with Health in the safety industry. The reality is it’s: OS & H, WS & H and, AIS & H.

Health has always been the poor cousin of safety and this is no more evident than the venture by Safety into Psychosocial Health. Of course, it’s not about Psychosocial Health it’s about ‘hazards’.

Safety clearly over-powers Health, so that Psychosocial ‘Health’ is called Psychosocial ‘Hazards’. The moment Safety uses the language of ‘hazards’ for Psychosocial Health we know that any sense of care and caring goes out the window and all the language becomes about ‘duty of care’. This of course, is NOT about care or caring but obligations to regulation and compliance to legal obligation. Such is how Safety codifies its own concocted reality ( ).

Of course, the problem lays deep inside the shallow OS and NOT H curriculum, which Safety likes as it is. If you want a review of anything in safety, Safety ensures that it calls in a behaviourist engineer and everything stays the same. How to have a review that isn’t a review. We saw this in mining with the classic ‘do-nothing’ Brady Review. That last thing Safety wants in safety is a Transdisciplinary view or any sense of balance with Health.

When you read about ‘duty of care’ in Safety you know this suits its culture as a masculinist deontological ethic ( It is not surprising in the care sector that Care Ethics and feminist Ethics are deemed essential for understanding care. It is no surprise that the AIS & H BoK Chapter on Ethics makes no mention of Care Ethics, caring, helping or personhood. It is no surprise that women have to seek a method for a voice in a masculinist and misogynist industry which pretty quickly shapes that voice into a masculinist methodology spoken by women. There is simply no tolerance in the safety industry for a feminist voice. These are examples of how Health as the poor cousin.

A deontological ethic is a masculinist ethic of duty but not an ethic to persons but an ethic oriented to duty to systems. Such an ethic comes from Kant who proposes that we know through Natural Law, what is the ‘right’ thing.

The idea that people know naturally about right and wrong is nonsense ( Such an approach to safety is naïve and simplistic (

When you look at the safety curriculum there is simply nothing to ‘help’ safety people enter the world of Psychosocial Health nor any related ethic on power, professionalism or personhood. Indeed, you won’t find a discussion anywhere about fallibility in S1 or 2, but so much noise about ‘error’. You also get silly noise about ‘to err is human’ ( and related behaviourist discourse as if moral choice is neutral and objective

But this is what Safety loves to do. Jump into a discipline in which it has no expertise (Poetics or Ethics) and pontificate on linguistics and English literature as if Safety is all one needs to interpret the world. We saw this done recently by Safety jumping into Historiography with no expertise in History ( Safety does the same when it makes noise about Culture ( usually by spruiked engineers. Of course, if the tables are turned, Safety is the first to protest when another discipline (eg. like Education, Learning or Law) seeks to enter its bubble and suggest another worldview.

When you look at the Codes of Practice for Psychosocial ‘hazards’, there is no mention of any critical Health focused skills about caring, persons, helping or ethics ie. the nature of Health is excluded. Such is the lopsided myopic perspective of the industry (not profession).

The criticism here is not for a reversal but simply for balance, as if persons and Health mattered. Of course, critical thinking for Safety is interpreted as non-compliance where critical thinking in Health is considered essential for education and learning.

There is simply no comparison between the education of a health professional and training in the safety industry.

Unfortunately, what often happens is that good people enter the safety industry wanting to be professional, wanting to care for others and soon discover that this is NOT what Safety is about. Under ‘duty of care’, ‘zero’ and ‘due diligence’, it is soon discovered that Safety is about brutalism, counting injury rates and policing, in the name of good. When this realisation occurs, people with a Health focus seek to leave the safety industry ( When caring people leave the safety industry it helps perpetuate the dominance of Safety over Health.

It becomes a vicious mono-disciplinary cycle and until that day comes when there is curriculum reform from outside of behaviourist engineering, nothing will improve.

However, in SPoR we offer a completely different way of thinking, working and tackling risk that is practical, positive, Transdisciplinary and constructive.

If you want to know more about the methodology and methods of SPoR then perhaps start the free Introductory workshop available here: or the free workshop on Due Diligence here: or download one of the many free books on offer.

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