Hopkins-Dekker on Reason and Other Laughs

One of the amusing things about Safety is not silly attempts at humour (https://safetyrisk.net/whats-funny-about-safety/) but watching closed minded academics (non-Transdisciplinary) argue about how many angels can dance on a pin head.

What is laughable is, all this argument is from a base of ignorance in semiotics, ethics and social psychology. When you frame your worldview through Safety, such a waste of words is inevitable.

None of this debate includes any discussion of what matters in risk such as, Semiotics, Ethics or Practical outcomes. It’s what academia does so well. And all it does is, fuel the mythology of ‘publish or perish’. Such myths of academia should have disappeared years ago.

Other myths in this debate include rhetoric of ‘safety greats’ or ‘great theorists’ in safety. Hmmm, by what measure? By what criteria?

I have written before on the legacy of James Reason:

How strange this industry that adores its own echo chamber and confirmation bias. Don’t criticise Lord Reason or god Heinrich!

But, let’s have a quick look at this piece from Hopkins whose opening line confirms his own (undeclared) bias. Reason’s influence on Safety has been nothing short of a disaster. But this is no different that the adoration of Heinrich. Both sustain a worldview that is disconnected from the real world and offer nothing to help people understand how to better tackle risk.

Why would I be surprised then that this paper by Hopkins (https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/298261) makes unsubstantiated claims and assertions about the likes of Heinrich and Reason. This is no different than the last academic work I read of Hopkins that asserts that safety gives one the right to override National culture! (Safety Culture and Safety Models pp. 35ff). Mate, stick to desktop risk assessments (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-gives-me-the-right-to-over-ride-your-rite/ ).

BTW, don’t purchase that book because it has nothing to do with culture. Similarly, Hopkins chapter 4 ‘The Use and Abuse of Culture’ says nothing about ‘use’, ‘abuse’ or ‘culture’. Just another collection of statements about traditional safety and the adoration of systems. Back to the Hopkins’ paper on Reason/Dekker.

What Hopkins discusses is theory (repeated 11 times in the paper). I’m sure every safety person is busting their guts to read more theory from Hopkins.

Neither Dekker nor Hopkins in anything they have written offer a new method or practical difference to an industry bogged down in systems that don’t work (Smith, Papersafe).

Methodology without method is meaningless.

Hopkins has a crack at Leveson and Dekker and declares both ‘wrong’ (in theory).

First of all, nothing is achieved by declaring Dekker and Leveson ‘wrong’ after all, this is a debate about theory from a closed worldview. Hopkins never speaks of ethics or semiotics. I would be much more interested if any of these academics in so called ‘safety science’ discussed the ethic of their view and practical outcomes.

What is amusing about such debates in academic journals is that few read this stuff subsidised by institutions with a few hundred subscriptions. In some way I even regret promoting this stuff by discussing it.

This paper by Hopkins is about splitting hairs and dancing angels on a pin head over Reason’s swiss-cheese, a semiotic model never discussed as a semiotic! The moment you present visual models and graphics you enter semiotic territory. What is most amusing is that neither academic even countenance the cultural, visual or semiotic significance of Reason’s swiss-cheese.

What is worse in this paper by Hopkins is the retreat back to the domino semiotic by Heinrich as some kind of alignment with Reason! Here is where the angels on pin heads dance. Who cares about splitting hairs on the language of Heinrich, especially after declaring the irrelevance of Heinrich to safety!

Here we are once again discussing Heinrich and his useless semiotic concoctions on no evidence and pejorative comments about psychology after declaring he has no expertise in psychology. If you want to deconstruct Heinrich you can read here: https://safetyrisk.net/deconstructing-the-myth-of-heinrich/

Or, I can post you a copy of his book as pdf. Simply write to me: robertlong2@mac.com I’m sure Heinrich survives because few actually have read his text.

What is most amusing, laughable and equally astounding is that most safety textbooks and curricula still have Heinrich and Reason as texts to read. Neither help anyone who wants to learn about human judgment, decision making, fallibility, ethics, communication, mortality, human ‘being’ and risk. But this is Safety where the love of objects, controls and measurement guides meaning.

So, back to Hopkins who refers to Heinrich’s ‘diagrams’ without any understanding or reference to semiotics or visual language. In no place does Hopkins make the reader aware of Heinrich’s absurd pronouncements on human ‘recklessness’, ‘willful disregard’, ‘violent temper’ or other psychological projections from a base of no psychological expertise. Such unethical and moral projects are the problem with Heinrich and his use of semiotics (in which he also has no expertise) to support his psychological projections.

And Hopkins (p.5) recognises this to some degree by stating: ‘suggests an extraordinarily limited and one-sided understanding of accident causation and an archaic understanding of the social forces that shape human beings.’

Then Hopkins gets to the semiotic models of Reason and again just refers to these as ‘models’. However, his purpose is not to discuss the ethic hidden in semiotics but rather to ‘prove’ Leveson and Dekker ‘wrong’ (in theory).

None of this carries any practical weight or significance for methods to tackle risk.

Similarly, Hopkin’s splitting hairs to denounce Dekker is equally as irrelevant. No wonder safety practitioners hate the irrelevance of academia. Just lucky, none of them read this stuff.

Rather than progress in further criticism of Hopkins or Dekker, I would just rather offer a better semiotic (Figure 1. An Alternative View of the Swiss-Cheese Metaphor) and, a methodology that offers a method that works (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety-book-for-free-download/) in tackling risk.

Figure 1. An Alternative View of the Swiss-Cheese Metaphor

The best way to address the non-sense semiotics of Heinrich and Reason is with a better semiotic, that better represents real life and how risk works. If you want to know why this is a better semiotic than Reason or Heinrich, you can download any of the free books or videos available).

In the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) we offer much more than just better semiotics. SPoR offers many practical, positive and constructive methods for tackling risk. There is not much use in spruiking methodologies (theories) without a strong, practical method that works!

None of this stuff by Heinrich, Reason or Hopkins explains what error is! Nothing of this explains the nature of human fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/) or anything practical to help people tackle risk. None of these debates mentions anything of moral responsibility in semiotic models or ethical outcomes of such semiotics for cultural formation.

All of this is just more theory debate and what readers in safety are left with is? More of the same old traditional safety and adoration of systems.

Without method, there is no ‘safety differently’.

There is an alternative that is practical, positive and constructive and most of it is free for download and open for study, coaching and enactment in established methods that work.

If you want to know more, it’s not too late to study in person with Dr Long and Dr Ashhurst in Canberra in September 18-21 on the myths of safety and the embodiment of learning in risk (https://spor.com.au/september-canberra-workshop/). Participants in these workshops walk away with practical and positive methods to tackle risk that work. If you want to know more you can write here: admin@spor.com.au


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