Toxic Positivity in Safety Doesn’t Help Anyone

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There is much to be said for having a positive attitude to things but there is no great value in being naïve or maintaining a delusion.

It’s all about striking a balance and this is what we do in SPoR. The purpose of criticism and deconstruction in SPoR is to improve something and make it better, ethical and more humanising.

This is why SPoR offers so much that is free, downloadable and constructive. It’s all there for anyone who wants to know, at no cost. It’s as easy as an open question, it’s just that from Safety, we rarely get any open inquiry. Such is the culture of the industry.

In reality, unless we encourage truth telling, strategic honesty and critical thinking, the status quo is maintained.

The only way to seek help and support is to tell the truth about oneself. What is the point of asking people ‘are you OK?’ and giving a fake response? Unfortunately, this is why one-off initiatives like the RUOK? don’t work (; ).

Sometimes, the by-products of the best intentions make things worse. This is what we see result from zero ideology in safety. Sometimes, well-meaning passion for something can create toxic by-products because longitudinal and unconscious goals have not been considered (

In SPoR, our model of Lower Order, Middle Order and Higher Order goals helps tackle this.

Unless one considers: unconscious goal states, the psychology of motivation and perception, unconscious dynamics and a mature understanding of culture, it is not likely that one will gain much insight into by-products and trade-offs associated with tackling risk ( This is often why all the silly target setting and associated naïve strategy in safety doesn’t work.

One of the by-products of toxic positivity is avoidance. Avoiding challenging and difficult concepts helps no-one and fosters anti-learning. I’d like a dollar for every time I have been told I am anti-safety when the opposite is the truth. The avoidance of critical thinking helps no one.

In SPoR, for every criticism of safety there are positive, practical, doable methods as an alternative. These are always present but people chose not to see them.

When we discussed the many ‘safety cultural silences’ in safety ( we put forward so many critical matters Safety is silent about. Indeed, how absurd to argue that the best way to learn about culture is to be silent about it (Busch). Ignorance helps no-one. ‘Head in the sand safety’, helps no-one.

The purpose of deconstructing the toxicity of safety is to move the agenda to helping, ethical practice, serving, care and humanising. Silence on critical issues simply emboldens the status quo.

Indeed, feeding the safety sector mono-disciplinary ‘goop’, helps no-one. This is why being silent about the engineering and behaviourist foundations (worldview) in safety enables naivety, toxicity and fraudulent information and practice to flourish.

This is why being silent about power and ethics in a so-called ‘model code of practice on managing psychosocial hazards’ ( is not only unhelpful but encourages an abuse of power.

The best way to create a stampede in a China shop, is to deny there is an elephant in the room.

This is all enabled under the guise of so-called helpful management control suggestions.

It’s like discussing ‘work health and safety investigations’ (p.31) ( with no mention of ethics, pastoral care, politics, mutuality, power or moral responsibility.

Such a document is more harmful and dangerous than helpful.


Putting such a code in the hands of an industry that doesn’t educate for it is a recipe for abuse.

This is what Safety delivers by being a mono-disciplinary insular non-professional fortress.

Often when I read the word ‘consultation’ in safety it means consult a safety engineer. Until Safety develops a Transdisciplinary approach to understanding things such as psychosocial hazards, it will remain unprofessional.

Zero ideology encourages non-consultation and anti-learning. This is the predominant by-product of zero, the global mantra for safety. Zero cannot consult with non-zero.

As long as Safety maintains the delusion of zero and the denial of fallibility, it will continue to promote blind compliance and toxic positivity (; Washington Post).

If you want to learn about SPoR the free Introductory course is here:

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