Semiotic and Poetic Literacy for Safety

When we undertake Semiotic Walks or engage in Observations in SPoR we often use the Visual and Spacial Literacy Tools, particularly for people indoctrinated in Traditional safety. Whilst Traditional safety focuses on hazards, regulation and policing, in SPoR we focus on unconscious messaging, social psychological arrangements and, the use of power.

We help this by using the Visual Literacy Tool (Figure 1. Visual Literacy Tool) and Spacial Literacy Tool (Figure 2. Spacial Literacy Tool).

Figure 1. Visual Literacy Tool

Figure 2. Spacial Literacy Tool

Being Visually and Spacially literate is just as important as being numerically or reading literate. The only trouble is in safety, Visual and Spacial literacy are considered on no importance.

Most of the criticism I receive on my blogs, books and videos are from people in safety who have no interest or expertise in Semiotic, Poetic, Visual, Ethical or Spacial knowing. It is nothing short of laughable being lectured by Traditional safety people about matters in which they are completely ignorant. And such criticism is even more entertaining because they have no idea of their ignorance, thinking that a Cert 4 or Diploma in safety or some collection of safety post-nominals, is some kind of qualification or expertise in something.

The safety curriculum is so lacking in anything of importance it is also laughable. It contains little more than learning and policing the regulation. The safety curriculum contains nothing on persons, ethics, visual and verbal communication, nothing on helping, care or listening. Indeed, it is also most apparent when people respond to a blog that they don’t actually read it or have no skills in reading or critical analysis. Most often the response is naïve name calling or emotive verbiage seeking somehow to protect Safety. Crazily many identify themselves as Safety (I

If you identify as Safety, and the personification of Safety, you need some serious counselling.


In real professions you don’t find this immature stuff.

Critical thinking about the Safety Industry is not criticism of people. Indeed, such criticism is essential if the industry is to improve and become more humanised in what it does. This is why the objectivization of women ( needs to be called out. This is why misogynist, power-centric semiotics ought to be named as an encouragement to women in safety. This is why the deontological, brutalist and masculinist ideology of Zero ought to be criticised ( So that safety can improve and become more person-centric and humanised. But, these things cannot be understood if the only thing you hold on to is Traditional hazard-centric behaviourist safety. Indeed, such an indoctrination severely limits any capacity to SEE much at all.

This is why the move into ‘psychosocial hazards’ ( just takes safety into a more damaging hole similar to the one created by the ideology of zero. None of this improves safety. Indeed, it make safety more laughable and less able to ever become a profession.

There’s not much point in an observation if all one is looking for is hazards and breeches of regulation. More so, most safety walks really do little more than police PPE! (Then when you see the glorification of both misogyny and PPE in one medium, you truly know just how sad the industry is). What is more laughable is when people with no expertise beyond Traditional safety defend it.


Visual and Spacial Literacy is essential for knowing in SPoR and is not developed without much unlearning of Traditional safety and relearning of SPoR knowing and skills.

If you want to start this positive, constructive and enabling way of knowing in risk you can start here with lots of free resources and materials:

There is no financial impediment to you learning a new and better way of tackling risk. And in this approach to risk people are humanised, zero is gone, brutalism is gone and one becomes far more positive and constructive in risk intelligence (

Of course, if you have is Traditional safety, all you can hear is anti-safety. Such also accompanies and inability to learn.

So, we give you these free tools in Visual and Spacial Literacy as a start to see what happens if you do such an analysis about your workplace. Who knows you may even jettison your violent and aggressive punching fist in front of a brick wall as somehow a message for safety. You may even jettison your misogynist icon that demonises women. But somehow I doubt such ‘sunk cost’ ever moves to learning what it doesn’t know.

But still, it is all there for free and it all offers a positive, constructive and practical new way to tackling risk.


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