Continuing our series on Safety Myths – see them all here
Myths and mythology are not about fairy tales or non-truth but rather symbolic truth and mythical truth. What this means is that when an idea is made true by a culture, it is then enacted as true by that population. We see this in common to all religions and theological groups.
The ideas of myth busting first started in theology with the work of Bultmann and Ricoeur and they called it ‘de-mythologizing’. De-mythologizing is an approach to deconstruction, to get to the roots of myth.
In this way one cuts though the symbology that amplifies the myth to the core idea and ethic of the myth.
Unfortunately, in risk and safety, mythology is misunderstood as fairy tale due to its own myths of engineering and science, objectivization of knowledge and mono-disciplinary bondage. I would doubt any in safety espousing the language of ‘myth’ have read Ricoeur or Bultmann. Similarly, one doesn’t read anywhere in risk and safety a discussion of hermeneutics or the subjectivity of risk.
Myth proposes its own way of knowing that transcends the idea of empirical evidential knowing. De-mythologizing seeks to expose what kind of false consciousness and ethic underlies a myth whilst at the same time recognising the new reality it has created. The ability to de-mythologize requires a Transdisciplinary approach informed by Historiography, Theology, Religion, Culture Theory, Critical Theory, Semiotics, Hermeneutics and Linguistics.
Most of the ‘fluff’ that floats about in safety endorses and amplifies safety myth, including some works that supposedly discuss safety myths. So much that is written in the name of safety doesn’t step outside the mono-disciplinary worldview of safety. More engineering, scientism and behaviourism masked as somehow a ‘new view’ of safety. Just pick up any so called ‘safety book’ and look at where the discussion starts: Heinrich, Reason, Dekker, Schein, regulation, legislation and all things ‘framed’ through a safety lens. When this is how thinking is ‘framed’, more safety mythology is endorsed.
Let’s take for example a so-called discussion of culture. When such a discussion eschews in safety there is never an inclusion of Semiotics, Linguistics, Social Psychology, Theology, Cultural Theory or Ethics. A simple test is to see if anything by Lotman is included in such a discussion.
This research by Lotman (endless research in other disciplines) has been around for decades but Safety shows no interest in it. Indeed, when it defines culture from its narrow worldview it simply proposes that it’s all too hard, confusing and ‘culturebabble’. Such is the mono-disciplinarity of safety and the proposed solution is to not talk about it.
Of course, the world outside of safety knows so much more about culture, it’s just that Safety shows no interest in it (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/). This is how safety mythology is perpetuated.
This is all ‘head in the sand safety’ on full show.
Regurgitation safety and rumination safety is still traditional safety, regardless of its brand.
Apart from the popular TV show Mythbusters, the process of mythbusting is not popular in safety. Such is the fixation on compliance, control, policing and ‘dumb down’. Indeed, any criticism of safety myths is deemed anti-safety or ‘rude’. And so, the industry continues to pursue a closed body of knowledge, suppressing critical thinking, anti-learning agenda and a fortress Mentalitie that frames every conversation from its comfortable base.
So, whenever Safety wants to talk about culture it asks an engineer, same on mythology.
There are of course many other valid worldviews outside of safety (https://safetyrisk.net/the-safety-worldview-and-the-worldview-of-safety-testing-due-diligence/; https://safetyrisk.net/starting-points-worldviews-and-risk/; https://safetyrisk.net/transdisciplinarity-and-worldviews-in-risk/). But to seek learning one needs to step outside of the ‘known knowns’ and be prepared to embrace open questions.
One needs to understand that the best way to learn in safety is to look outside of safety.
Mythbusting is the task of creating Cognitive Dissonance (https://safetyrisk.net/cognitive-dissonance-and-safety-beliefs/ ). Cognitive Dissonance is NOT about intellectual discomfort (https://safetyrisk.net/perception-heuristics-cognitive-bias-and-the-psychology-of-safety/) such is the strength of yet another myth in safety. Cognitive Dissonance is about a threat to worldview and seeks to invoke a reorientation in learning (Festinger). When Safety continually defends itself in face of its myths or only wants to tell you what it knows, you know it has no interest in learning, despite the fact that it loves to talk about learning.
So, we will continue this series on mythbusting in the hope that some may want to learn what a Transdisciplinary view can offer. Such a task is a positive task because it offers learning to those who want to learn and confirms the defence of myths for those who privilege myths over learning.