What’s Your Agenda in Safety?

imageOne of the challenges of working in the safety industry is, so much that is critical is left to guesswork and most that is petty and unimportant is delivered in overload. We see this recently with the AIHS BoK Chapter on Research. So little on the realities of research associated with persons, ethical practice, helping, care, social research methods and engagement but so much on objects, engineering and behaviourist assumptions. Indeed, this is consistent agenda throughout the BoK.

It’s so unfortunate that is you have another agenda apart from engineering-behaviourism, there is no interest in learning, collaboration, engagement or Transdisciplinary movement. Indeed, any criticism is deemed irrational, destructive and disrespectful. Such is the culture of an industry fused to zero, intolerance and compliance. Sadly, the industry doesn’t even have the ability to know how to engage in debate. This is also another of its agenda.

The notion of ‘agenda’ essentially means ‘things to be done’ but it has other meanings. Agenda can also mean one’s worldview-methodology that is ‘brought to the table’ that generates the ‘doing’ (‘the method’). In this way we understand one’s ‘agenda’ as one’s bias, which in safety is rarely declared or well articulated. This is also one’s disposition, orientation or ontology. Safety simply has no understanding of this. One is in the camp or not.

But then there is the most important agenda and that is ‘hidden agenda’ and this is where the AIHS BoK shines. Hidden agenda shares meaning with the notion of ‘hidden curriculum’, a critical element in social reproduction (https://safetyrisk.net/understanding-safety-as-a-cultural-reproductive-process/). This is where a clearly articulated and owned ethic is important, which of course the BoK doesn’t have. So many of the Chapters of the BoK work this way, by assumption that an engineering-behaviourist epistemology define safety.

The AIHS and BoK rarely declare any of its real agenda, and it is this lack of transparency that fosters so much division in the safety industry. The Chapter on Ethics is a classic example (but there are many) of hidden motive, amateur writing, hidden curriculum and astounding contradiction. Who would think one would write on Ethics without declaring the bias of one’s own ethic? What text would automatically project a deontological ethic without owning it? Then by lack of transparency hide its ethic, which is unethical!

Similarly, with the latest chapter on research. Why not just come out and clearly state that the Chapter only has an engineering agenda? Why give the impression that this is somehow relevant to safety and has some broad connection to research? Especially, when safety should be about persons in research and how it can be undertaken ethically. More agenda by silences, the common AIHS agenda.

Strangely, if you bring an ‘agenda’ other than one the AIHS deems relevant, one is dismissed as anti-safety and disrespectful. (Of course, one more hidden moral imperative) Such is the club agenda of a political association seeking to be professional. But the projection that others have ‘agenda’ and that the AIHS does not, is nonsense. Indeed, the hiding of agenda simply makes the task of debate, collaboration and exchange impossible.

There can be no debate, engagement or exchange unless Transdisciplinarity is the foundation for discussion. There can be no discussion unless one acknowledges ones own worldview and that other worldviews compete yet, are just as valid in the scope of safety. Especially disciplines that prioritise the humanisation of persons over objects. Similarly, there can be no exchange without movement to learn.

On most occasions the engineering-behaviourist agenda is not articulated by the AIHS or the BoK but remains hidden in the text and by the silences the AIHS chooses to remain in the background. For example: The coupling of the AIHS to zero, the global ideology for the safety industry, is never discussed. Indeed, how fascinating that in the Chapter on Ethics in the BoK it receives no mention. Talk about the elephant in the room! But this is the style/agenda of the AIHS. This is how safety silences work (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/).

Many of the hidden agenda of the AIHS operate through silences, ‘don’t talk about the war’! (https://safetyrisk.net/dont-mention-the-war/). This is how one can maintain the masquerade of professionalism through uniformity. I know, let’s have a debate and we’ll set the agenda for the debate and the safety engineers people who will be invited to it.

Of course, it is nonsense to assume that worldviews don’t make judgements. Everything the AIHS and BoK (by its hidden worldview) promotes is judgemental. When the world is ‘framed’ through the lens of engineering-behaviourist or Safety, many valid disciplines and worldviews are excluded. Then when one is ‘anchored’ to zero, intolerance becomes the ethic.

This is the nature of any closed politik. Let’s not project the idea that only ‘others’ are judgmental, only ‘others’ have agenda. Such is the nature of an institution bankrupt of a moral philosophy.

Hence the importance of owning ones own ethic and articulating one’s own agenda.

The only way for Safety to learn is to move away from zero, to suspend its fixation in engineering-behaviourism and embrace a Transdisciplinary movement towards engagement. This means engagement with worldviews one doesn’t understand and worldviews that don’t think the same, worldviews that are often dismissed by engineering and scientism as invalid. If such movement can be entertained then there can be possibility for dialectic and learning.

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