The cardinal rule in safety is to present what you are not by stating what something is, then claiming the myth created as true. Then anchor a symbol and ritual to that myth and it becomes the new truth. Is it true? No! Does it work? No! But why let reality get in the way of a good myth. This is the safety way.
This is what we get with BBS nonsense (https://larrywilsonlive.com/2019/01/03/paradigm-shifts-part-1/) that speaks of ‘paradigm shift’ when it is not.
First of all, what we know about behaviourism is that it is an antiquated theory that doesn’t explain behaviour. Moreso, it has no understanding or explanation of human decision making or social psychological influences. This is what you get when you apply a 1930’s theory to reality in 2023.
So, let’s have a look at this naïve and simplistic article that claims some kind of connection to ‘paradigm shift’.
The idea of ‘paradigm shift’ comes from Thomas Kuhn who blew apart the mythology of scientism/positivism. Kuhn constructed the expression ‘paradigm shift’ to indicate change in ontology, philosophy, methodology and worldview. I would doubt that the engineering-behaviourism worldview of safety has ever read Kuhn. One thing is for sure Safety is addicted to scientism/positivism.
This article starts out with the favourite of safety, posing a binary perspective to a complex issue. One should already know that such a proposition is based on ignorance. Of course, the reason why Safety loves hazards and error is because it thinks these can be measured, which they cannot. One thing is for sure, the last word to emerge in such a discussion is the word ‘risk’.
The language of ‘human error’ is simplistic language that explains nothing. Such language gives an attribution that the speaker has some understanding about why things go wrong or why people do what they do. It’s a smoke screen. It is clear that this article has no idea why people do what they do. Behaviourism has no idea why people do what they do! Humans are not the sum of inputs and outputs. Risk is a wicked problem. But why would you countenance something as a wicked problem? when you have a myth to sell in safety?
The article talks about ‘paradigms’ but its discussion is not about paradigms. This is what Safety does so well, parade ignorance as ‘thought leadership’, with no expertise in such matters as: the psychology of motivation, psychology of goals, culture, psychosocial health, mental health, gendered violence and a host of critical issues that require critical consideration. The last thing Safety wants is critical thinking, deconstruction or discourse analysis on what it says. All of this is apparently anti-safety. As stated recently ‘Safety is most certainly is not helped by disparaging comments without any suggested better ways to make the much needed improvements’. Of course, SPoR has many positive methods and practical, constructive alternatives (free and online for download) if one wants to know. The reality is, safety doesn’t want to know nor explore such alternatives, why? when a good myth will do.
The article then shifts to the old favourite of Safety ‘damaging energies’. Another meaningless concept that projects as if there is some understanding of the social psychology of why people do what they do, when it does not. The AIHS BoK Chapter on causation (https://www.ohsbok.org.au/chapter-32-models-of-causation-safety/) is a classic in the non-explanation of cause on the basis of ‘damaging energies’ (pp. 7-8). More mythology that explains nothing, doesn’t explain cause nor why people do as they do. More focus on objects rather than persons who engage with objects.
Then we get two simplistic little icons in the article that somehow explain injury/harm when they don’t. Neither is there any explanation of motivation, causation or any of the host of complexities associated with human judgment and decision making. Neither is there any mention of the word ‘risk’.
‘Eyes on task’ and ‘mind on task’ is meaningless goop that explains nothing. None of this begins to explain why people do as they do. None of this helps understand why people are motivated to not follow procedures, systems and compliance. None of this explains why people don’t see things.
Of course, the foundation of ‘eyes on task’ is the psychology of perception and the notion of ‘mind on task’ is founded on the understanding of Mind, neuropsychology and unconsciousness. It is clear from this article that there is no such understanding.
Yet, the language used gives the impression that there is some understanding of why humans do as they do, when there is no such understanding. This is the stuff of safety myth. This is the stuff of safety fraudulence that supposes engineers are experts in culture and Safety understands psychosocial health. Then parade myth as ‘thought leadership, where there is none.
- There is no understanding in this article on the nature of consciousness or unconsciousness.
- There is no understanding of the psychology of motivation or perception.
- There is no understanding of neuroscience or why people do what they do.
- There is no understanding of social psychology or how social arrangement affect decision making.
The language of ‘error’ is meaningless, like the language of ‘be careful’ and explains nothing. It’s just like the language of ‘awareness’ that without definition gives off the idea that there is some explanation for something when there is not. The language of ‘be careful’, ‘be aware’, ‘concentrate’, ‘eyes on task’ and ‘mind on task’ is meaningless and explains nothing about why people do as they do.
By posing a false binary strawman, the article is able to pose ideas that seek to answer a question that doesn’t matter. The real question: ‘why do people do what they do?’ remains silent. This is because the BBS worldview (paradigm) has no answer to this question. BBS has no interest in the nature of social psychology or how other non-behaviourist worldviews (paradigms) explain humans judgment and decision making. This is because behaviourism is fixated on measurement and data attributed to some idea of causation.
Behaviourism has always been the starting paradigm for safety (https://safetyrisk.net/why-safety-is-attracted-to-behaviourism/), founded in the nonsense of Heinrich (https://safetyrisk.net/hoodwinked-by-heinrich/) and encouraged by the engineering worldview of objects. Behaviourism is not a paradigm shift for safety (https://safetyrisk.net/the-curse-of-behaviourism/), it is the curse of safety. And even when Safety loves to use the language of ‘neuroscience’ it’s usually invoked by engineers and behaviourists (https://safetyrisk.net/turning-neuroscience-into-behaviourism/) as a smoke screen for more behaviourism.
Just ask anyone who has been on the receiving end of BBS and ask them what they experienced. Most often it’s about brutalism, the love of objects, zero and measurement. And, a deflection from the real foundations of safety that should be about care, helping, persons, ethics and learning.
Of course, there is nothing in this article about: persons, care, helping, listening, risk, ethical practice, psychology of motivation or social psychological influences that actually explain why people do as they do.
However, if you are interested in better understanding the psychology of motivation and why people do what they do, you can register for the workshops as follows:
These workshops will help you move away from behaviourism and find methods that actually work to humanise risk (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/).