Understanding Real Risk
When I wrote the book Real Risk, Human Discerning and Risk (2014), it was in response to engaging with the culture of the safety industry. I was never brought up in the indoctrinated mythology of Safety miseducation and so was astounded when I was drawn into this industry coming from the Education, Teaching and Learning sector.
The purpose of Real Risk was to challenge much of the mythology that exists in the safety industry about how it understands risk. Similarly, my first book: Risk Makes Sense, Human Judgement and Risk.
Both of my books tackle the subjectivities of risk attribution and how the safety industry uses the language of fear to construct risk as bad and morally wrong. Of course, risk is not morally or ethically wrong, yet the safety industry males it so. This is why safety loves a deontological ethic, it’s all about blind duty with no mention of care, helping or humanizing persons. Just ‘check your gut’ and use ‘common sense’.
The safety industry fear of risk is driven by the ideology of zero and the nonsense idea that injury rates are a representation of the presence of safety. Another reason for writing both my books is about the absurd attribution that risk can be known objectively, can be measured and quantified. More delusions by an industry that has a psychosis with human fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ).
It is quite a simple proposition that any belief in zero applied to humans is a denial of fallibility. This is why the industry never uses the language of fallibility when it talks about risk. The fear of risk is the fear of uncertainty and the fear of uncertainty is the fear of learning.
In Real Risk I discuss the human need for adventure, discovery and exploration (Chapter 3) as foundational for learning. When one determines that risk is the enemy then one makes learning the enemy of safety. Whenever I do a language audit of organisations and ask people what language they associate with safety the word ‘learning’ never comes up, neither does the word ‘helping’. In over 800 language audits in organisations across the globe, helping and learning are not associated with the way the safety industry understands risk. Similarly, the language of ‘moral’ or ‘ethics’ conduct is also absent.
What a delight then to read about the work of Richard Harris (Thai Cave Rescue – https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ) and listen to his Podcast ‘Real Risk’ – https://realriskpodcast.com/
How interesting that such a podcast doesn’t emerge out of the safety industry indeed, if you want to lose vital hours in your life listening to traditional safety podcasts go ahead. As an interesting exercise just look up the top 20 safety podcasts (https://welpmagazine.com/20-best-workplace-safety-podcasts-of-2021/; https://player.fm/podcasts/Safety ) and do a language and semiotic analysis. Despite all the spin about new and different, they are just more of the same, traditional safety and introspective ruminating about how good the safety industry is. Echo chambers for an industry afraid of Transdisciplinarity. It’s pretty clear that most safety podcasts are egos trying to make a mark as small fish in a small pond. Why would anyone want to listen to this stuff? Hello, my name is ‘Safety’ and I want to talk about myself for the next 100 episodes’.
Richard Harris talks to people who take risks, ordinary people who don’t fear risk but understand risk as the spirit of life and learning. What is interesting too, you won’t hear any nonsense safety language about ‘heroes’, ‘heroines’ or ‘superheroes in any of his podcasts. You can save hearing such nonsense about heroes for a safety podcast (https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/heroes-are-among-us/id1385170887?i=1000472066063; https://www.safeopedia.com/video-qa-where-are-our-safety-heroes/7/5056 ).
What a breath of fresh air not to listen to Safety talk about itself.
When you understand Real Risk you know that risk is not the enemy of safety and that there can be no learning without risk.
In my book Real Risk I explore a few case studies of adventurers: Jessica Watson, Sue Fear and Dick Smith and also, the nature of risk intelligence. You won’t hear much talk about ‘risk intelligence’ in safety or in so called ‘safety differently’. The book of the same title by Dylan Evans is a must read for anyone interested in safety (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dylan-Evans-9/publication/278640156_Handbook_of_Risk_Theory/links/5be54a0d4585150b2ba90a1b/Handbook-of-Risk-Theory.pdf?origin=publication_detail ). When one is intelligent about risk one knows how to embrace risk. The fear of risk only creates risk fragility, it simply makes people less safe (http://en.kgt.bme.hu/files/BMEGT30M400/Taleb_Antifragile__2012.pdf ). You can read more about the work of Dylan Evans here: https://www.edge.org/memberbio/dylan_evans
Safety doesn’t talk about ‘risk intelligence’, all it talks about is zero: the symbol of anti-learning, anti-thinking, anti-intelligence, anti-risk and dumb down. If you want to understand the culture of safety just listen for the language it omits, the things it never talks about. You learn so much about the safety industry by listening to its silences (https://safetyrisk.net/the-safety-and-new-view-debate/ ).
The global mantra of the safety industry remains ‘zero’. I can’t want to see the AIHS agnostic line up (https://www.aihs.org.au/news-and-publications/news/what-do-when-vision-zero-new-global-line ) soon in Hillsong praise for zero (https://safetyrisk.net/no-evidence-for-the-religion-of-zero/; https://safetyrisk.net/its-zero-or-nothing-for-global-safety/ ) at the next global safety convention in Sydney (https://www.safety2023sydney.com/ ).
The religious enemy of zero is risk.
The first podcast by Richard Harris is given by himself where he explains the nature of Real Risk (https://realriskpodcast.com/the-good-doctor-real-risk-with-richard-harris/ ). ‘Harry’ starts his podcast by stating he wants to ‘talk to people who put themselves in harm’s way’. This is the ultimate rejection of the ideology of ‘zero harm’, the darling of Safety. Obviously, a dangerous podcast series that Safety would reject, nothing to learn about ‘risk intelligence’ here.
Can you imagine if anyone introduced Harry to this crazy safety industry that loves to claim it is ‘professional’? Can you imagine what he would say about ‘zero harm’? I’m sure he would like I, associate such nonsense as the ultimate evidence of being unprofessional.