No Room for Ethics in a Zero ‘Mindset’

We learned today about a significant conflict of interest (and moral compromise) in Queensland mining . When it comes to moral philosophy and ethical perception, nothing gets in the way of Zero. Moreso, when Zero rules a ‘mindset’, anything goes, the end justifies the means.

The record of Anglo American in Queensland has been disastrous:

I wonder what could be done about that? Maybe some kind of reform? Maybe a creative vision for tackling risk? Perhaps not.

All of this comes off the back of the Brady Review which brought together more engineering thinking and behaviourism to ensure that nothing changed in Mining in Queensland. The last thing Safety wants in Queensland is any thinking ‘outside the box’. The best review to have when things go wrong is a review where the predictable outcome is known – more engineering and behaviourism. And when that doesn’t work get in an engineer to review the curriculum.

When zero is the guiding ideology and ‘mindset’, there is never any hope for creativity, imagination or vision. Zero is the ideology of stasis. When your goal is focused on a number, people come last. When zero is the number one value then, people know what is of value – numerics.

A ’mindset’ is a worldview, a methodology that drives method. A mindset is a framework of how you make sense of the world ( and a zero mindset ensures that one’s vision is zero. Zero vision offers zero vision.

One thing is for sure, when engineering and behaviourism guide one’s non-vision, any sense of ethics disappears. You won’t see anything that focuses on zero ever countenance a conversation on ethics. Zero and ethics are in fundamental conflict. You can’t love zero ( and hold a moral philosophy for fallible persons.

Moreso, the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics makes no mention of zero, the most dominant ideology in the safety industry. How convenient is such silence? The best way to sustain the power of zero in the industry is to be silent about it. Well done AIHS! I wonder how noisy the approaching Congress in Sydney will be about Zero.

Just from the program schedule we can see that it is the most common theme. And make sure you note all the organisations and companies who sponsor this zero event ( These are organisations that support zero vision and the ideology of metrics.

Just follow this story and one quickly realises that Zero is expert at language gymnastics, strategic gibberish and speaking nonsense to people ( You can expect nothing ethical when zero is made a ‘mindset’ to drive an organisation. All the organisations I work with that get rid of zero, safety improves ( ).

Of course, if you read between the lines ‘blind freddy’ knows why this story has hit the headlines. Unethical shenanigans always surface wherever zero appears. Our Zero Survey ( demonstrates that safety people associate zero with dishonesty (85%), and bullying (80%).

You see, when it comes to zero the ethic is deontological, the purpose of safety is to be dutiful to zero ( ), not to ethical conduct or respect for moral integrity. When a number frames trajectory and outcomes, persons come last.

This is what Zero does. Zero creates a delusion ( that suggests that injury rates and metrics define the presence of safety. Doesn’t look that great when numerous people die and miners are collectively injured.

I know, let’s set a goal for zero and then count the number of times we don’t achieve it. What a great inspiration to motivate people to tackle risk! No, let’s rather double down in BBS and a dose of brutalism, that will make things better.

In SPoR, we know that zero fosters unethical conduct and has by-products which increase the likelihood of injury. Zero creates toxic cultures where psychosocial risk is amplified and deceit is fostered. Yet, Safety continues to allow zero to rule its ‘mindset’. All because it has no answer to a simplistic binary question founded on the delusions of Heinrich ( ).

If you are in an organisation and wish to move away from zero so that safety can improve, you are more than welcome to contact Matt Thorne ( who is happy to give you a demo of how SPoR works (

If you want, Matt can lead you through his recent book ( and demonstrate how methods NOT founded in engineering and behaviourism, can improve safety and culture.

If you want to understand an Ethic of Risk ( we will be running the Ethics of Risk Module for free in Feb 2024.


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