KISS Safety in a VUCA World

One of the conundrums of the safety industry is its addiction to simple, black and white thinking. We see this evidenced in the delusion of Zero ( Poor old Safety, noisy about the word ‘professional’ and resistant to any complexity, ambiguity and paradox.

As much as one might like the silly meme: Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS) we know that in the real world everything is Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA). You can read about VUCA here: What a difference a word makes: Understanding threats to performance in a VUCA world

When one is locked into the simplistic world of zero, there is only one binary question (how many people do you want injured today?) and only one binary answer. The best response to that dumb zero question is: why do you ask dumb binary questions! Why do you ask unethical entrapment questions?

When you call a safety congress a ‘zero event’ ( you really do have a mental health issue ( It’s like parading a woman as an object in safety ( and then running a campaign about gendered violence using the semiotic of a monster (

Of course, safety doesn’t consult experts outside of itself. It doesn’t need to know about semiotics, unconscious influences, wicked problems ( ). There is so much you don’t need to know when you have Safety on your side. There are so many silences in safety ( that demonstrate this head-in-sand approach.

KISS Safety is head-in-the-sand safety. KISS safety imagines that publishing some simplistic stuff on ethics or Usability Mapping ( ) actually tackles the complexities of the issues facing them. Ah, get those CPD points and pass about the fairy tale books. When you see what Safety is silent on in ethics, and so called ‘Science of Safety with Useability Mapping’ it is simply mind blowing. This is NOT Science nor does it have anything to do the complexities of learning, reading comprehension, by-products of paperwork or the complexities of linguistics. Hey, but you don’t need any expertise in Linguistics, Learning, the Law or Semiotics to sell a product in safety, KISS!

Nup, all you need is ‘UX Engineering! with a dash of behaviourism.

I know the problem with paperwork, you are not using it right.

I would suggest a read of Greg Smith’s Papersafe ( for a more nuanced and sophisticated view, where trade-offs and by-products are considered in a VUCA understanding of the world.

BTW, in usability mapping, there is no discussion of grammar, the psychology of comprehension, educational theories of comprehension, linguistics, para-linguistics, semiotics, poetics, language or literacy. Tackling those would be far too complex. The focus of this BoK chapter is driven by safety outcomes NOT a Transdisciplinary approach to understanding text and comprehension. KISS safety! Just have a look at the UX Engineering Checklist at Appendix One and there it is, reading is a mechanistic engineering process.

Meanwhile in the VUCA world we know that learning theory is complex (, literacy learning is complex, reading is NOT mechanical but embodied and e-motive. We know through the psychology of goals, psychology of motivation, the psychology of perception, psychology of learning through disciplines other than safety that, many unconscious factors affect useability and comprehension. KISS safety!

For example: Just look at the language of Semiotics and its phenomenal complexity ( and yet Usability Mapping has no interest in this language or how it mitigates and diminishes an engineering approach to text and comprehension. KISS safety!

The focus and drive of safety for text is part of the problem ( Similarly, the fixation on zero, as is the psychosis of injury rates and by-product of brutalism, all the outcome of KISS and zero thinking.

Meanwhile in the VUCA world where we know about paradox, ambiguity and uncertainty, we rejected the nonsense of zero 20 years ago. Isn’t it funny, generally when a goal doesn’t work organisations jettison the goal, not Safety!

Nup, Safety just keeps burying itself more deeply in simplistic nonsense, speaking nonsense to people (, imagining that holding ‘zero events’ might achieve anything other than zero!

Most organisations review their goals each year and jettison goals that don’t work, not KISS Safety. Safety just loves Zero more deeply (, despite the fact that the world is laughing at it.

If you want to read about an international company that got rid of zero and how safety improved ( ) you can read here:


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