The Seduction of Templates, Set and Forget

The Seduction of Templates, Set and Forget

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One of the favourite activities of Safety is downloading and sharing templates. This is promoted by the idea that paperwork is an end in itself. Once the paperwork is completed in comes ‘set and forget’, nothing to worry about except the next version updates!

One of the downsides of downloading templates is the fear of not getting risk assessment right. This makes the user reliant on the designer of the template and teaches the user/safety person that their own experience, intuition and competence is not good enough.

I was speaking to a highly experienced safety person yesterday who had been indoctrinated with this Mentalitie. We were working through the iCue Engagement process ( ) that essentially starts with a blank page, and it became clear that one of the first things he had to unlearn was this mythology that heaps of detail in analysis makes for good safety. The opposite is the case. The other thing we had to tackle was this deep lack of confidence that template-thinking infuses into safety people.

It is so hard to let go and trust your own competence, when you have been indoctrinated by an industry that tells you some form designed by an engineer/technicist is the ‘gold standard’.

So, we chatted for an hour or so and as part of the conversation I listed all the omissions from the typical iCam investigation ( ). We discussed the bias of the iCam method ( ) that had been made ‘orthodox’ in his organization.

This is what safety does. It grabs some flawed method and makes it ‘orthodox’, teaching the user that their own intelligence, intuition, capabilities and experience are not good enough.

All this template mythology collective dumbs down the industry more deeply, from a base of grow miseducation.

The more this acceptance of this kind of deemed ‘orthodoxy’, the less the user thinks critically, improves perception, insight and discovery. And if it ever goes wrong and it goes to court, most often all this safety junk’ will be used against you ( There is no regulatory requirement that any particular method of risk assessment is ‘orthodox’.

But it is so hard for Safety to ditch deemed orthodoxy in non-compliance, even though what has been made orthodox is completely useless.

Isn’t it strange that this industry has emerged where the most important thing is that a process has been ‘done’ rather than a process has been done well? When it comes to court, Greg Smith will tell you that you would be better off with nothing than a bad process that will be used in evidence against you.

This is what Greg Smith talks about as ‘The Dangers of Safety Bureaucracy’ ( ).

Greg often talks about how this fixation with ‘paper systems’ has ‘actively undermined safety’.

And he’s right, created co-dependence on templates creates more problems than it solves. Here’s what it does:

  • It confirms the mythology that someone else can think better than you about risk.
  • That the template you have downloaded is free from design bias.
  • That the developer of the template design had a holistic worldview.
  • That the outcome of paperwork is the goal of risk assessment.
  • It distracts from the lived necessity of risky conversations.
  • It amplifies the engineering worldview focus on objects.
  • It frames a lack of trust in oneself.
  • It confirms the indoctrination of template thinking and cuts off any sense of learning.
  • It is not a defence in court indeed, it exposes one more deeply to prosecution.
  • It disconnects the user from purpose and process.
  • It makes for less safe workplaces.
  • It diminishes critical thinking indeed, fears critical thinking.
  • It reinforces the fact that safety is not a profession, that safety people cannot be trusted.
  • It normalizes engineering and safety ‘scientism’ as orthodox.
  • It hides and omits critical social psychological and cultural dimensions to risk. iCam is a classic example of such constructed blindness.

So, when we learn how to tackle risk though the simple tools of SPoR, we start with as little as possible, as simple matrix framed by Workspace, Headspace and Groupspace. That’s it!

The iCue Engagement process trusts the user, provided they can unlearn their safety indoctrination and can learn effective skills in listening, helping, establishing understanding, using open questions and visually mapping responses. Unfortunately, safety orthodoxy discourages all of these things. Much has to be unlearned but if you can unlearn the junk and jettison the template dependency, the outcomes are so empowering and make for excellent safety.

The outcome is far more valid and helpful than any checkbox system. It enables real time in-situ critical thinking that enables easy recall and testimony should things ever go ‘pear shaped’. And it eliminates all of the problems listed above that plague safety and actually make safety ineffective. This is what Mondi did and it works ( ). No need for bells and whistles, slogans and safety propaganda and someone else’s template! This is what everyone learns when they undertake the Introduction to SPoR module. The current module is oversubscribed, the next free module is offered at the start of 2022. You can register here:

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