Surveillance Doesn’t Work

imageA recent article and research posted here ( shows that surveillance of employees doesn’t ‘work’. If you want to know what ‘works’ you can read here ( ).

Surveillance is one of the first tactics of dehumanization ( ). It’s how prisons work in what Foucault called the ‘Panopticon’.

Recently we discovered that some major stores were using facial recognition technology in their stores . Of course, when they were caught out they assured the public that it was being done for ‘safety reasons’. Yes, when you want to do anything that’s unethical, just invoke safety, its works a treat at silencing critical thinking ( ) and opposition. After all, you can’t criticize anything that is for safety otherwise you will be deemed anti-safety.

Safety has been keen on wearable technologies and monitoring for years ( ). Of course, when Safety tells you something is only for your good, you know that’s not the real motive, such is the safety code ( ). Just look at the evidence in how such technology is used and exploited, most often a tool of power.

When your model of safety is set by zero and ‘all accidents are preventable’ then any unethical measure is deemed good in the name of safety. Another good reason why Safety only wants a deontological ethic ( ) to justify dishing out brutalism.

When you don’t take ethics or politics seriously ( ) and, everything is just about the control of objects, then humans just become a ‘factor’ in a system. Such is the nonsense of ‘Human Factors’ safety, which is not about humans but about systems. When all you see is humans as an object in a system then brutalizing others is easy.

Turning persons into objects, and dehumanizing persons is step one out of the Nazi party playbook. When people wonder how the Nazis could do what they did in the concentration camps, it wasn’t because they were monsters, it was because of an extended indoctrination of eugenics and making people objects. The study of Social Psychology emerged out of the desire to understand why people could do what they did to others ( ).

Once someone is objectified, the rest is easy.

Surveillance of others is also easy, fraught with major problems. To start with, if used in safety, no one has the education or training required to interpret the behaviour they see ( ). Whilst Safety loves to talk about behaviours, it has no training in observation or what behaviours mean. All the skill development required even to be a good behaviourist is not present in safety.

Behaviours are not objective and the interpretation of behaviours is determined by the worldview of the observer. You see what you want to see.

What we see in this research by Thiel, Bonner, Bush, Welsh and Garud is that Surveillance actually creates its opposite. If you want compliance with rules then surveillance fosters the breaking of rules! But Safety doesn’t want to hear that message.

I once was privy to a confidential report by a tier one construction company on the largest project ever in Australia. This damming internal report demonstrated that this project was the most toxic and troubled place to work. Workers were bullied, served infringements and sacked for any minor non-compliance. There was one fatality on the project and safety advisors were known for their policing and secrecy. It was a surveillance site. The same company proudly promoted its surveillance camera programs Internationally as the Thousand Eyes program ( ). Some promote this as a positive ( ) but never mention the fact that the real ‘object’ of surveillance is the human. This is the ultimate in Behaviour Based Safety (BBS).

All of this stuff means one doesn’t need a culture of helping, care, understanding, skilled conversation or listening. Which is why Safety loves its deontological ethic so much.

The best way to justify brutalism is to define ethics to suit your outcome.

Surveillance is the lazy way to non-safety. All you have to do is buy the cool-aide and accept the premise that Safety is superior to everyone else and only the safety hero knows safety. Such is the ‘spirit of zero’ ( ). When every person is a TRIFR rate or LTI, they have already been objectified.

This is what Safety does when it defines itself as the counting of injury rates. Therefore if ‘safety is a choice you make’ then every injury must be some ‘grub’ who chose not to be safe! Whatever follows is then made moral because nothing is more sacred than zero.

The discourse of perfectionism is step two in the Nazi playbook, ah the Aryan race play card. One superiority is established (read safety heroes) and persons are demonized (read objects) then step three is easy to enact a campaign for safety as a greater good than personhood (the most significant silence in the safety industry).

If you want to learn about a holistic approach to ethics in risk you can study here:

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