Researching Within The Safety Echo Chamber

imageOne of the most reliable things about Safety is that it has no interest in broad diverse research nor what it means to be professional. Such is the safety code that always describes what it is by what it isn’t.

The latest example is the AIHS BoK Chapter 39 (2nd Edn) ‘The OHS Professional as a Critical Consumer of Research’.

One thing is most clear when one examines any chapter in the AIHS BoK, Safety only looks inside of itself to confirm what it knows ( ).

One can rave on about the technique of research but unless Safety is able to look outside of its own echo chamber, whatever it does is NOT research but regurgitation. Safety shows no interest in any sense of Transdisciplinarity ( and this chapter 39 simply confirms this.

So, let’s look at this Chapter and it starts out by anchoring to the 2017 Zero Harm ideology INSHPO Accord (p.1). Of course, where else would you find a foundation for professionalism and methodology in research? In Safety!

This is what safety does, it always starts with itself, it always anchors its knowledge to itself. And it’s like so many texts in safety that anchor to itself as foundations for thinking. We see this so often when safety engineers speak on everything from culture, mental health, ethics and learning. So easy to do in an industry that doesn’t cultivate critical thinking nor has anything about critical thinking in its curriculum. You can throw any fraudulence in front of this industry that has no capability to deconstruct most of the goop that is thrown at it.

How fascinating to anchor this chapter to the Singapore Accord that speaks about the notion of professional with no reference to helping, care, personhood, power or ethics. What an exemplar of what it means NOT to be ‘professional’. No different than writing a chapter on Ethics ( that is not about Ethics nor written by an Ethicist.

When an industry anchors to Zero it can have no credibility, no professionalism and no sense of what research is ( ). The love of zero eliminates all learning and any openness to research.

So, then this Chapter discusses the meaning of ‘evidence-based’ but this is meaningless. What is the point of selecting research within a narrow bubble that simply confirms the engineering-behaviourist paradigm that dominates Safety? What is the point of research that simply confirms such a narrow worldview?

The truth is, Safety never researches outside of its own bubble nor outside its assumptions founded in scientism/positivism/behaviourism.

For example, Safety has made no attempt to engage with the Social Psychology of Risk in the last 20 years. Nor with a host of disciplines that challenge the fundamental assumptions of the safety/behaviourist worldview. I know let’s research how good Safety is! Let’s ensure we leave out all that matters in thinking about culture and risk! Let’s make sure we call mental health a ‘hazard’ and demonise persons by a deontological ethic! Let’s trot out once again BBS as ‘thought leadership’! If Safety gave away zero, I would be the first on board in collaboration and dialogue.

Even the five-step process of decision making proposed on page 1 of this Chapter is nonsense. Science never starts with ‘ask answerable questions’. Science starts with asking unanswerable questions! Scientism is NOT Science.

This Chapter is not evidence-based enquiry but rather a framework to reject questions it doesn’t like ( ). This is how Safety searches for a paradigm to confirm its own assumptions. The idea of evidence-based practice should never be framed by limiting the nature of the questions it asks, only asking those that are answerable. Such an assumption plays right into the assumptions of measurement and Safety mythology.

The next step in this faux framework is the rejection of personal experience (p.2), just one more step in projecting the myth of objectivity in yet another Safety paper that offers nothing new to a desperate industry yet to tackle Transdisciplinary critical thinking.

Of course, the elephant in the room is any discussion of subjectivity in the nature of research, neither is their any discussion of the qualitative/quantitative debate so common to any professional discussion about research.

So, we know what this Chapter doesn’t want to discuss, and is NOT transparent about it, which makes this discussion unethical and unprofessional.

Then we get this classic assertion ‘OHS professionals are knowledge workers (Provan et al., 2017). There is no evidence for this indeed, so much evidence for the opposite. Just look at the Chapters of the AIHS BoK for evidence – no diversity, no Transdisciplinarity, mono-disciplinary enquiry and the regurgitation of Safety assumptions supporting Safety views. Where is the diversity of research in Safety? Where is this quest for knowledge? I could list thousands of critical texts in risk, psychology, discourse analysis, philosophy, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, ethics, education, neuropsychology and learning that are never mentioned anywhere in risk and safety.

Let’s go further. Just look across any research in Safety and look for anything on: Critical Theory, Cultural Theory, Post-structuralism, Semiotics (or any of its dozens of sub-disciplines), Anthropology, Hermeneutics, Religion etc. Look for Kierkegaard, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Ricoeur, Jung, Merleau-Ponty or anything from an Existentialist or Phenomenological source, it’s nowhere. The list is endless. Safety is the industry of not-knowing and anti-learning. It only wants to know what confirms scientism/behaviourism/positivism.

In 20 years, Safety has never sought to engage with any of my work, how could it, there can be no compromise in zero, there can be no tolerance in zero. This is despite the fact that my books are in excess of 500,000 downloads. Happy to download but never engage, never an open question, never an email but excessive condemnation from worldviews that have no cognizance of other worldviews. This is the Safety way.

What this Chapter confirms is that Safety only seeks knowledge within its small narrow curriculum and worldview. The presentation of Sacket’s list (p.4) is simply a list of all that Safety doesn’t do. Let’s take for example item 1: ‘Identifies the types of literature that may inform practice’. An examination of typical Safety texts demonstrates that the literature Safety engages with is small, narrow and affirms its own worldview. In know, let’s be radical and start our research with Heinrich, Reason or Dekker!

There is so much to deconstruct in this Chapter 39 because it simply sets up a structure for more noise within an echo chamber.

What is even laughable is the discussion on page 7ff about transparency. Like most BoK Chapters, the assumptions of Chapter 39 are NOT declared. The methodology of Chapter 39 is NOT declared.

The most classic example of non-transparency in the BoK is the Chapter on Ethics. Only Safety could be so unethical in writing about Ethics. Indeed, there is no discussion of the driving philosophy of Chapter 39 itself indeed, the lack of discussion about subjectivity/objectivity demonstrates the opposite of transparency.

This is what Safety does. It hides its assumptions and worldview as if what is declared is somehow objective. It declares what it is, by what it is not.

The next section is on causation but most of the critical evidence and research on causation receives no mention. Indeed, this section reminds me of the ‘mickey mouse’ BoK Chapter 32 on Causation that is little more than a joke. None of the critical issues in causation receive any mention in that Chapter! More regurgitation of the same old tired linear behaviourist stuff.

Section 4.1 is on questioning and again more endorsement of a narrow-closed approach. Safety never entertains the questions it doesn’t want to hear; such is the masquerade of non-professionalism. Just look at the questions suggested that Safety people ought to ask of research (table 3) and its more echo chamber stuff. None of this begins to explore the nature of critical thinking or questioning.

So, what is this Chapter 39 worth? About the same value as the Ethics Chapter, the Causation Chapter or Culture Chapter. Once again, another Chapter that demonstrates the Safety echo chamber is alive and well, confirming what it already knows. Such is the nature of the safety=zero industry that loves to use the word ‘professional’ but doesn’t know how to practice it.

However, if you are interested in tackling some challenging positive approaches to research and risk you can register for workshops in Vienna and Canberra with Dr Long and associates:

These workshops will help you move away from engineering/behaviourism/positivism approach and the myth of objectivity and, discover methods that actually work to humanise risk (

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