OMG – Big Words and Safety

imageAmongst many of the amusing projections and accusations levelled at SPoR is the fear of ‘big words’.

Of course, this is in parallel with other accusations defined and attributed as ‘safety bashing’, negativity, no tools, non- practical help and unconstructive criticism.

Of course, critical thinking is not ‘safety bashing’, constructive criticism of practice is not negativity, posing practical alternatives is not anti-safety, deconstructing zero is not anti-safety and the many practical tools provided by SPoR for free, are constructive, practical and positive.

But let’s have a quick look at this anxiety Safety has with big words. Here are some of the common words used in SPoR (se also :

1. Dialectic (9 letters)

2. Pedagogy (8 letters)

3. Semiotics (9 letters)

4. Semiosis (8 letters)

5. Ontology (8 letters)

6. Discourse (9 letters)

7. Mutuality (9 letters)

8. Socialitie (10 letters)

9. Technique (9 letters)

10. Wickedity (9 letters)

11. Dehumanise (10 letters)

12. Ethics (6 letters)

13. Moral (5 letters)

14. Listening (9 letters)

15. Unconscious (11 letters)

16. Fallible (8 letters)

17. Archetype (9 letters)

18. Delusion (8 letters)

19. Religion (8 letters)

20. Cult (4 letters)

I think you get the gist of the language.

So, let’s compare this to safety:

1. Noncompliance (12 letters)

2. Regulation(10 letters)

3. Legislation (11 letters)

4. Management (10 letters)

5. Standardization (15 letters)

6. Implementation (14 letters)

7. Stakeholder (11 letters)

8. Performance (11 letters)

9. Comprehensive (13 letters)

10. Requirement (11 letters)

11. Organisational (14 letters)

12. Improvement (11 words)

13. Consultation (11 letters)

14. Accountability (14 letters)

15. Harmonization (13 letters)

16. Unauthorized (12 letters)

17. Modifications (13 letters)

18. Representatives (15 letters)

19. Manufacturer (12 letters)

20. Jurisdictions (13 letters)

So, you can see of course, that the issue is NOT about ‘big word’s. It’s actually an accusation and projection that masks a fear of new words, of new concepts and unfamiliarity evident in an unwillingness to learn.

There is obviously great comfort in the safety industry with big words and with extensive acronyms that are meaningless to the uninitiated. Indeed, the Act, Regulation and Standards are littered with huge words all accepted and understood by the industry of safety. Indeed, the Act and Regulation are particularly infused with large legal words and concepts that are never attributed by Safety as difficult or ‘big words’.

In a similar way the safety industry accepts complex graphics and symbols that are inexplicable and attributed with meaning that doesn’t exist.

However, the moment this safety industry hears a word that is not familiar, it is rejected as ‘academic’ and ‘big words’.

The key to understanding another’s perspective and the language of a different discipline is a willingness to learn a new language. For example, it is remarkable how we don’t hesitate for a second to learn the language of our GP or surgeon when our health is concerned. And, much of the language of medicine uses language in excess of 20-25 letters. But we have no problem with that. It’s all a matter of will to learn.

Similarly, when a doctor criticises our life style and habits, we don’t label such criticism as ‘bashing’. Neither is it the case if we see a counsellor, advisor or scientist who offers criticism from their substantial expertise in research. But criticise safety and its ‘bashing’ and ‘big words’. Such is the culture of safety.

If you are interested in the nature of Linguistics in relation to risk SPoR offer the following constructive, positive and helpful practical program: with very few ‘big words’.

see also: Understanding Psychological Terminology and Applying it to Safety and Risk

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