Personifying Objects in Safety –

The personification of objects is a Poetic device understood by anyone with an ounce of intelligence about linguistics ( ). Poetic devices are used constantly by Safety in safety but few know what they are actually saying ( ). Recently, I criticised the HOP Conference for endorsing zero as a ‘science’ ( ), thank goodness they changed that language.

As a simple exercise analyse any policy or marketing by Safety and look for metaphors and any part of speech and see what is being said. The same can be done by looking at the Semiotics or by any process of Discourse Analysis ( in safety language.

You cannot separate the message from the medium of the message. For example, by describing something as ‘safety science’, safety is the adjective and science the noun. The phrase infers that safety informs or describes the nature of science. Presumably, ‘’safety science’ is something different than ‘science’? Otherwise, why is the adjective needed? The same is done with the language of ‘safety culture’. Most of the time I read this phrase and the discussion and concepts used have nothing to do with culture or safety. A good example is the company that produces checklists.

The language we use is not neutral, just as definition is not mechanical. You don’t find the nuances of meaning from a dictionary, just as one can’t describe the indescribable by propositions. Don’t expect to learn much about culture or linguistics from engineering.

The reality is, our worldview and view of safety is present in our language, Discourse and Semiotics of Safety, for those who are skilled to see it ( ). For example:

I recently visited Geoscience Australia ( ) the other day and they have a magnificent display and education area. My grandkids loved it.

As with any Semiotic Walk I looked for the discourse (language in use) and the Discourse (power hidden in language). For example, the CEOs of this Department were displayed on the wall near the entrance. What do you notice? All white Caucasian men.

The hidden Discourse says a great deal about how and who gets promoted in this Department. Yet when I looked around at employees in the building, hallways and café, this does not represent the diversity of persons I saw.

The Education area was amazing, designed for exploration and discovery.

The display area was amazing, and they had also designed a wonderful bingo card for kids to explore and name gems and rocks. See below my grandchild playing the gem bingo game.


Someone who knew about Education and Learning had done an amazing job in creating the whole learning experience through discovery and exploration. The place is a great semiotic experience and will be on our schedule during the May SPoR Convention (

One thing I noticed were several pamphlets and marketing about safety. So, I looked to see how this organisation framed, primed and anchored its language, thus telling me how the organisation and Safety understood safety.

This one illustrated below caught my eye about ‘shore safety’. What do you notice?


Yes, you guessed it. It was all about objects. This is the Safety mindset. What is more, all of these objects are personified and given an energy as if they attack you! See how ‘caves clobber you’ and ‘sand suffocates’. How fascinating. This is the same ideology that dominates safety in the nonsense of ‘damaging energies’ ( I always find it amusing that when I personify Safety I am attacked for doing so. This is typical of an industry that only wants traffic one way. There is no compromise in zero. When your ideology is an absolute, no wonder one cannot countenance discussion with Differance.

Even when you can search the website you don’t search by risk, you search by hazard (

I hate to tell you folks but all of this personification of objects is Poetics. Objects don’t attack you, hazards don’t have their own energy, will or thought processes. This is called personification.

If you read the pamphlet there is nothing about people or risk in either text or semiotics. Conclusion? Safety is about objects. I have written about this before: – objects don’t have a will to do.

So, if you want to personify objects, go for it, but it’s just a literary device. If you use a metaphor, make sure you want it to say what you want, don’t expect that your message doesn’t have a medium ( If you are using semiotics, try to understand what you are really saying (

It seems incredible that the last thing this industry wants to do is talk about people and risk. Truly, this is the industry of objects.

If you look at the AIHS Body of Knowledge 75% of everything is about objects. There is nothing in the AIHS Body of Knowledge on the nature of helping, listening, community, relationships or ethical practice. No wonder the industry understands psychosocial health as a ‘hazard’! ( Such language is a wonderful strategy to set the context for brutalism.

When your focus is on duty to objects and the objectifying of persons, no wonder this is the industry of dehumanisation ( No wonder this is the industry of zero ( when it defines safety by injury rates. When your vision is zero, no wonder you have no vision ( When you task is to count the number of times you don’t reach your goal, no wonder everything about safety is recorded in the negative.

However, you want to learn about risk and persons in the positive then, there are plenty of opportunities for free to do so. SPoR offers many free downloads ( free videos (, free posters ( and podcasts on the practical, constructive and positive methods of SPoR ( All the models and methods of SPoR are open, transparent, ethical, doable and for free download. We also offer free courses that are available to anyone (Free SPoR Intro –; Free Due Diligence – Is this done anywhere else in safety?



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