Semiotic Methods to Help Tackle Risk

A semiotic method is a method that uses visual thinking to create understanding. Semiotic methods use graphics, icons, symbols and signs that communicate at a different level than text and number.

Semiotic graphical representation is much more suited to showing: relation, connectedness, association, correlation and interaction. Lists, tables, checklists, dot points and text cannot help much when it comes to wanting to understand relational and relation between things and persons. Semiotic knowing requires some study and knowledge in semiotics.

This is why in SPoR we have developed many tools and methods that are semiotic and help enhance relational knowing.

We have documented these methods in several books but have collected them all together in the latest book for free download here: SPoR and Semiotics, Methods to Tackle Risk.

SPoR is not on about slogans, the ‘vibe’ or re-jigging safety systems. SPoR uses semiotic methods to help people understand the relationships between: risk, causation factors, wickedity, learning, perception, motivations, ethics, persons and decision making.

SPoR focuses on the process (risk) not the outcome (safety). In this way SPoR ensures that the method (the way of tackling risk) can remain ethical and human-centric.

When we focus on the outcome of safety, divorced from the ethics of the process then, what happens is, any unethical conduct is justified by the outcome, just as long as the numeric zero shows up at the end. This is an ethic of ‘the end justifies the means’, so commonly found in safety.

This is what the ideology of zero drives ( The process doesn’t seem to matter just as the outcome is zero!

This is how we end up with unethical demands to be ‘obsessed’ about the outcome – safety (;

Obsession is not only a mental health disorder; it always leads to extremism and the brutalism of persons.

The fact that ‘safety obsession’ is promoted as a good thing ( demonstrates just how out of touch Safety is with an ethic of process. Obsessed people are blinkered people, obsessed organisations lack clarity about vision and perception of diverse needs, obsessed organisations and people are myopic ( And the greatest cause of safety myopia is zero! (the outcome)

This is why there are so many silences about critical risk at the zero congress that is fast approaching in Sydney (

This is why zero is never about zero harm but selective harm that only considers matters that can be counted, not matters that count.

This is why zero can never promote vision because its outcome is a number, not the wellbeing of persons as they tackle risk.

This is why different methods are required than those used in traditional safety. This is why semiotics like pyramids, swiss-cheese and coloured matrices don’t work. This is because Safety doesn’t even realise that all these graphics are semiotics and loaded with their own biases towards a numeric goal. None of the semiotics in traditional safety convey anything about relation, connectedness, association, correlation and interaction. Most of the semiotics used in traditional safety (iS1 and S2) are mechanistic/systemic and don’t focus on persons or an ethic of risk.

If you are interested in learning better methods to tackle risk you can download our new book here:

Or contact Matt for more information/demo:


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