The Shape of Belief in Safety

Originally posted on August 10, 2020 @ 10:17 AM

imageThere is no such thing as non-belief in safety because even non-belief is a belief. Agnosticism is a belief. What we believe determines our actions, movement and decisions. Belief shapes assumptions and assumptions motivate action. More so, even beliefs not known to us that are unconscious shape actions. The non-cognitive mind keeps us all breathing, being and deciding. The unconscious mind enacts most of our heuristics, habits and intuitive/tacit decisions. Our conscious mind motivates that rare moment of rational thinking in decision making.

Every movement we make is a decision shaped by belief. Every decision of a fallible person is also shaped by faith, the certainty of uncertainty. Every time we enact a decision without knowing the outcome, we make a ‘leap of faith’. Every leap of faith creates a risk. What is at risk is the outcome of that decision. Most of the time the risks we take end out OK.

The Zero survey ( has revealed some interesting beliefs in the safety industry, with over 350 participants let’s consider three results thus far:

I believe in zero – 16% agree 84% disagree

All accidents preventable – 24% agree 76% disagree

Safety is a choice you make – 52% agree 48% disagree

· It is great to see that a high proportion of people in the safety industry don’t believe in zero. This means that 84% of the industry is disconnected from the mantra that the safety associations believe. Disconnect in belief fosters disconnect in relationship. With zero as the guiding belief of the global safety industry the only real outcome can be alienation of the rank and file of safety people. So when leaders stand up and sprout zero they can reliably know that most people listening are calling BS. It is hard to be a leader when no one believes what you say!

· It is also heartening to see such a low result for the idea that ‘accidents are preventable’ – 24%. Although marginally higher than the result for zero this belief demonstrates that despite all efforts in managing risk that all accidents cannot be prevented. This is consistent with the foundational belief that humans are fallible – 96%, and any discourse about perfectionism is alienating.

· The belief that ‘safety is a choice you make’ – 52% agree, is concerning and is out of sync with other beliefs/results in the survey. Such a belief not only drives blaming but also seeks out ‘choice’ in investigations. In my experience most events I investigate don’t involve a rational choice most decisions are made unconsciously. Most of the time the source of decision in events is wicked, most often no cause can be clearly determined.

One thing we can be sure is that objects don’t believe, emote or enact or are ‘motivated’ to enact decisions. No object even AI, has the emotional equipment to ‘motivate’ ( ) decision. The repetition of algorithms is not a decision. So, without emotion, perception and motivation there is no learning/decision. Machines don’t ‘learn’. No object has agency nor perception and therefore cannot ‘decide’, make or compose. If I fall in a hole and it collapses, it doesn’t engulf me, I am engulfed because of what I enacted driven by a decision to act. The hole had no action to act nor motivation to trigger an emotion to act. Motivation to move and act is emotionally driven.

So we learn today that young men are the group that least believe in their vulnerability to Covid19. Young men aged 18-23 are most likely to believe myths about Covid19. We know that myths are symbols and that belief in symbols is critical to enactment, the swastika demonstrated that.

The shape of belief in young men is consistent with the road toll and other statistics that demonstrate that young men are often uninsurable. Maybe this is something Dawkins referred to as the ‘selfish gene’ or maybe overconfidence in males aged 18-23 by the genome (Ridley, The Genome, Autobiography of a Species) makes them easier to recruit for war? Maybe this explains the nature of the prison population. Maybe this belief explains such headlines as:



Whatever the shape of belief, so goes the statistics. When I undertake training and the MiProfile survey  it is mostly the young males who think that safety paperwork is BS. So, this creates a bit of a problem if you ‘believe’ paperwork keeps you safe. Of course, this doesn’t mean we ‘target’ young men for attention in safety but rather we need to think more carefully about how we shape belief in communicating to the unconscious.

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