If You’re Happy in Safety, Clap Your Hands

When we were kids we used to sing this song in Primary school and it is still sung by kids today (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwTwt4oIW3U). It is a cute little song and easy to sing when one is innocent about the world and comes from a comfortable middle-class home. In some ways the singing of the song helps to make one happy and reflects the innocence of childhood. You can read some research into happiness and early childhood here

You can also read about the decline in happiness over the span of childhood here: https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/assets/documents/hilda-bibliography/working-discussion-research-papers/2012/Beatton_etal_Unhappy_Young_Australian.pdf

Being happy is a relative e-motion depending on many things including: economics, background, expectations, heredity, family and a host of social factors:

We often take the notion of happiness or unhappiness as a ‘measure’ of meaning and purpose, which it is not. Happiness can fluctuate from minute to minute simply because one has unrealistic and immature expectations of life. Happiness is not necessarily a measure of meaning (semiosis) or purpose. Neither is happiness motivational.

Much of the immaturity of the ‘positive psychology movement’ that emerged from Martin Seligman is founded on a naivety about the e-motions and a behaviourist understanding of ‘flourishing’. You can read about the rise of positive psychology here: https://www.neh.gov/article/martin-seligman-and-rise-positive-psychology

You will find a number of key concepts in positive psychology in the discourse of the safety differently/S2 group.

The trouble is, only looking for the positives and for happiness misses the point about meaning, purpose, fulfilment, Justice and a realistic understanding of Love. There is such a thing as ‘toxic positivity’ (https://www.salon.com/2022/04/23/the-problem-with-positive-psychology-when-the-pursuit-of-happiness-regresses-into-positivity/). This happens when one is naïve about the benefits of critical thinking/theory and swings the pendulum out of balance the other way (https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/positive-psychology-movement-myths.htm .

We see this in Safety when people finally discover the toxicity of negativity and swing the pendulum too far to positive psychology. There is a balance. Much of this depends on one’s ability to think critically but unfortunately in Safety this is rejected by Traditional Safety and the Safety Differently/S2 group.

Critical thinking (https://www.ucc.ie/en/media/support/cirtl/CriticalThinking.pdf ), deconstruction (https://jackbalkin.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/deconessay.pdf ), critical theory (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312674815_Introduction_What_Is_Critical_Theory) and myth (de-mythologizing) busting are often rejected as negativity or anti-positive or non-compliance by an industry that is poorly educated and fixated on conformity, compliance and rule-following. Even when the rule or mantra is harmful eg. Zero.

When one frames one’s ideology through the lens of zero applied to fallible people, the only outcome can be brutalism.

For example: whenever SPoR offers critical analysis of safety the response is often that everything is negative and anti-safety. This is not the case, indeed, it is the opposite. SPoR offers a complete methodology and methods that work because they are positive, constructive, practical and relational. But is seems Safety doesn’t want a workable alternative.

There will be no improvement in Safety without a balance between critical thinking and positive thinking. Between compliance and non-compliance. Between naïve happiness and fulfilment, meaning and purpose that focuses on the wellbeing of persons and communities.

When SPoR is critical of Safety it is because whatever is being promoted harms people and the process of Safety. When Safety/Zero harms and dehumanises persons, SPoR will always speak out and give voice to the vulnerable and brutalised.

Are People in Safety Happy About What They Do?

I have been in discussions over the last year with a couple of researchers/authors writing books about the brutalism of the safety industry not externally but internally. That is, the way the Safety Industry by its very nature, brutalises its own people by the way it works and by what is expected of safety people.

Both of these researchers have been interviewing safety people over the past year and have discovered that many are wanting to leave or deeply dissatisfied with the nature of their work.

Many claim they came into safety wishing to find a place to help and caring only to discover that they were required to count injury rates, focus on paper-work, police the regulation and bully people.

There is a huge gap between the wish of people to find a vocation in safety and then discovering that the occupation requires them to do things they don’t believe in.

Even in our simple ‘zero survey’ we have found that 85% of all safety advisors and managers don’t believe in zero and think it creates dishonesty! (https://safetyrisk.net/take-the-zero-survey/)

It is this kind of disconnect between meaning/purpose and occupation that creates a deep sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in safety people. But there is much more to this that we have little space to discuss. You will have to wait for the books to be published, perhaps next year.

But this is important research and clearly something the associations and regulators don’t care about. Just read you AIHS BOK Chapter on non-ethics, it’s your duty to brutalise others so you can get your injury rate down to zero! All founded on the stupidity that injury rates a a measure of safety.

There is nothing more dis-satisfying than being asked to give lip service to something you don’t believe in. There is nothing more dis-satisfying that being caught in a massive gap between one’s calling (vocation) to help and care and being required to brutalise people in the false name of ‘good’.

If one understands the nature of safety as policing (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-cops-and-safetys-adoration-of-power/ ), then maybe one might ‘’enjoy the power of such activity but this is NOT what the research shows about safety people in reality or, the way they are characterised by people in power. The research shows that many people enter the safety industry to care and help people then not be given the skills to care and help only to find the industry is about policing/controls of regulations.

Of course, the only way this can change is either the complete reform of the safety curriculum (https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/) which, if it was ever considered, would be handed to a chemical engineer or, enquire about the methodology and methods of SPoR that completely change the focus (methodology) and work (methods) of safety to the helping and care of persons in tackling risk – which works! (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety-book-for-free-download/).

If you are in Safety and would like to tell your story to either of these researchers (one in USA and one in Australia) please contact me and I will pass on your details (admin@spor.com.au).


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