The Nonsense of ‘Safety Awareness’

One of the characteristics of the culture of Safety is throwing about terminology with not a clue what it means. Then once the code word is spoken everyone thinks they have an explanation. A classic example is the meaningless term ‘safety awareness’ paraded ignorantly in this incident investigation (

Similarly, other meaningless terms like ‘human error’, ‘complacency’ and ‘common sense’. Just read Reason or Dekker on human error and after you are finished you still don’t know what it is.

So many code phrases in safety are never clarified or given meaning but are just attributed code for club membership. And, once you have spoken the code word like ‘zero’, ‘all accidents are preventable’, ‘human error’ or ‘safety is a choice you make’ you are in the club, the dumb club.

Next step is to call yourself ‘safety Sam’, ‘safety geek’, ‘safety nerd’ or ‘safety Sue’ so that everyone really understands your depth of intelligence about risk. Oh yes, followed by the word ‘professional’.

So, what is this ‘safety awareness’?

  • Is this ‘awareness’ a level of consciousness?
  • How interesting, when 95% of all decision making is unconscious!
  • How fascinating when 95% of all decision making is a/rational!

So, what is ‘safety awareness’ consciousness?

The whole purpose of human heuristics is to make decision-making unconsciously! Heuristics help us NOT think about what we are doing ( ). Heuristics make fallible persons fast and efficient ( ). Most decision making is NOT rational, logical or systematic.

It is simply breathtaking how ignorant this safety industry is about human consciousness and the power of the human unconscious (see if you have read any book from the list that appears later in this blog). Similarly, the industry simply has no interest in understanding human emotions or the nature of human ‘being’.

  • Why do I need to know about human ‘being’ when I have meaningless behaviourist code?
  • Why do I need to understand human-judgment and decision making when a set of good myths will do?
  • Why do I need to comprehend the nature of human personhood when blaming and brutalism is so enjoyable?
  • Why be intelligent about risk when dumb-down brings so much reward, arrogance and superiority?

This is what we see so often in investigations conducted by Safety.

I am reminded of the classic Danny Cheney case ( where safety decided that Danny wanted to suicide that day!

Nothing Safety does in investigations and its determinations is supported by Neuroscience. If you want to know about human ‘being’ and Neuroscience perhaps start with these:

  • Claxton, G., (2009) The Wayward Mind, An Intimate History of The Unconscious. Abacus. London.
  • Claxton, G., (2015) Intelligence in the Flesh. Yale University Press. New York.
  • Colombetti, G., The Feeling Body, Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind. MIT Press, London.
  • Damasio, A., (1994) Descartes’ Error, Emotion, Reason, and The Human Brian. Penguin, New York.
  • Damasio, A., (1999) The Feeling of What happens, Body and Emotions in the Making of Consciousness. Harvest Books, New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2003) Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain. Harvest Books. New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2010) Self Comes to Mind, Constructing the Conscious Brain. Pantheon Books. New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2018) The Strange Order of Things, Life, Feeling and the Making of Cultures. Pantheon Books. New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2021) Feeling and Knowing, Making Minds Conscious. Pantheon Books. New York.
  • Durt, C., Fuchs, T., and Tews, C., (eds.) (1997) Embodiment, Enaction, and Culture. MIT Press. London.
  • Fuchs, T., (2018) Ecology of the Brain, The Phenomenology and Biology of the Embodied Mind. Oxford University Press. London.
  • Fuchs, T., (2021) In Defense of the Human Being Foundational Questions of an Embodied Anthropology. Oxford University Press. London.
  • Ginot, E., (2015) The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious, Integrating Brain and Mind in Psychotherapy. Nortons. New York.
  • Johnson, M., (1987) The Body in Mind, The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
  • Johnson, M., (2007) The Meaning of the Body, Aesthetics of Human Understanding. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
  • Johnson, M., (2014) Morality for Humans, Ethical Understanding from the Perspective of Cognitive Science. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
  • Johnson, M., (2017) Embodied Mind, Meaning and Reason. How Our Bodies Give Rise to Understanding. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
  • Lakoff, G., and Johnson, M., (1980). Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
  • Lakoff, G., and Johnson, M., (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh, The Embodied Mind and Its Challenges to Western Thought. Basic Books, New York.
  • Macknik, S., and Martinez-Conde, S., (2010) Sleights of Mind, What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions. Henry Holt Co., New York.
  • Meyer, C., Streeck, J., and Jordan, J. S., (2017). Intercorporeality, Emerging Socialities in Interaction. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
  • Noe, A., (2009) Out of Our Heads, Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from The Biology of Consciousness. Hill and Wang. New York.
  • Norretranders, T., (1991) The User Illusion, Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. Penguin. London.
  • Panksepp, J., (1998) Affective Neuroscience, The Foundations of Human Animal Emotions. Oxford University Press. London.
  • Raaven, H., (2013). The Self Beyond Itself, An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences and the Myth of Free Will. The New Press. New York.
  • Ramachandran, V. S., (2004) A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness. PI Books, New York
  • Robinson, K., (2011). Out of Our Minds, Learning to Be Creative. Capstone. London.
  • Thompson, E., (2010) Mind in Life, Biology, Phenomenology, and the Science of the Mind. Belknap Press. London.
  • Tversky, B., (2019) Mind in Motion, How Action Shapes Thoughts. Basic Books. New York.
  • Van Der Kolk, B., (2015) The Body Keeps the Score, Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Penguin, New York.
  • Varela, F., Thompson, E ., and Rosch, E., (1993) The Embodied Mind, Cognitive Science and Human Experience. MIT Press, London.

Read any of these and you will quickly realise that ‘safety awareness’ and ‘human error’ is nonsense.

Even when safety uses the word ‘neuroscience’ it is code for behaviourism (;; Most of the stuff floating about as ‘brain-safety’ or ‘neuroscience’ is being peddled by behaviourists and engineers. (Just as it is about culture).

What we do know for sure is that none of these books above are on any reading list in a safety curriculum across the globe. This is a measure of the risk intelligence of ‘safety awareness’.

But nothing is going to change in Safety investigations as long as this binary behaviourist mythology remains in place – all maintained by zero and a curriculum anchored to the nonsense of Heinrich and Reason.

However, if you do want to learn about an alternative way to understand risk and become risk intelligent, you can either download a free book ( or watch one of the introductory courses in SPoR:

Free SPoR Intro

Free Due Diligence

Who knows? Maybe after watching a video or reading a book you might get rid of some of the nonsense language used to try to explain why people do what they do.


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