You Can Put Safety Into Engineering but, You Can’t Get Engineering Out of Safety

‘A person cannot possibly seek what he knows, and, just as impossibly, he cannot seek what he does not know, for what he knows he cannot seek, since he knows it, and what he does not know he cannot seek, because, after all, he does not even know what is supposed to seek.’ (Kierkegaard, 1844).

If Kierkegaard is right then, how do we explain learning other than a venture into the unknown, a ‘leap of faith’?

In the many years I have been sharing the insights of SPoR I have encountered many who know what they don’t want. In safety, many make contact out frustration with the culture and lack of vision in the industry but when challenged to step into the unknown, they retreat back to the comfort of systems, behaviourism and engineering. A look at the ASSP serves as an example of safety as regurgitation of more of the same coded as what it is not.

It wasn’t that long ago that the American Society of Safety Engineers changed their name to drop the language of ‘engineering’ and adopt the language of ‘professional’. What has changed? Nothing. How do we know this? Just analyse the language. Language is one of the greatest indicators of cultural belief ( ).

Just have a search of the ASSP website and look for a few words such as: ‘ethics’, ‘politics’, ‘social’, ‘care’, ‘persons’, ‘culture’ etc and all you get is a link to policy statements. None of this language is important to Safety and such language forms no part of its core discourse.

Then search for ‘engineering’ and you get this:

A statement on engineering as ‘practice speciality’.

How fascinating that an association claiming the word ‘professional’ has next to no focus on ethics but remains identified as a technical, mechanical activity because ‘Engineers are a critical component to facilitating safety in the workplace’.

Search the ASSP website for technical, systems, standards language and you are inundated with results with a quantitative focus on measures, behaviourist discourse and safety mythology ( Safety loves Quanta.

The ASSE may have done a ‘smoke and mirror’ job on the name but the focus is the same. Search for the language of ‘professional’ and you get this kind of stuff:

Look at the discourse? Technicality, regulatory compliance and goop on transparency that is sourced in the old safety favourites like Geller (BBS).

Of course, the foundation for transparency is articulation of an ethic. How fascinating to have a feature article of communication with no mention of listening! Such is the level to which this industry is bankrupt of vision.

But hey, you can get the journal on an app and a photo gallery.

So, access the photo gallery and what do you get? Pictures of objects, I kid you not. See Figure 1. ASSP Photo Gallery.

Figure 1. ASSP Photo Gallery.


And you can even read sentiments of wanting diversity of thought, building trust and language of relationships. All written by safety specialists with more meaningless post nominals than a university style manual. The language of diversity simply means getting a different safety engineering view on something.

Of course, there is no Transdisciplinarity in any of this but more searching for knowledge from within the quantitative worldview of safety.

You can also read about the 3 primary goals of the ASSP:

  1. Meet plan and manage cash.
  2. Grow and align our products and services with stakeholders’ key needs.
  3. Enhance governance to meet current and future needs of members, customers and the safety profession

You can even read an article about education ( ), that is not about education or learning ( but rather certification, risk mythology, safety management systems and worker health that is not about worker health. So much code for engineering and behaviourism ( masked in humanities language. Certification in safety goop is not education or learning.

Perhaps you want to read an article from ‘the greatest leader alive today’ no, not the Indiana Jones of Safety but the founder of ZERO! Yes, you can even upload your video for a prize and have it kept in the Zero Safety Library. You can also watch the first episode of SafetyTV where you can see more from the ASSP sponsor ZERO. If you don’t want to watch through the video just FF to 3.25 and watch more ZERO goop.

The regurgitation of non-learning is alive and well in the safety industry, where you can get a mechanical engineer writing on culture, a chemical engineer writing on education and a systems engineer to write about social relationships. As long as you have 4 or more safety post-nominals you become a sociologist, anthropologist, educationalist and cultural expert.

Or perhaps you can visit the online book store ( ) with ample publications in engineering, metrics, mechanistic safety, objects safety and micro-learning that is not about learning but rather more indoctrination, more of the same and more code for engineering.

Perhaps Kierkegaard understood Safety so well 170 years ago. Perhaps he saw the promise of certainty by Hegel in no different a way than we see the myth of certainty in the technics, metrics and objects focus of safety engineering today.

Kierkegaard named the quest for certainty in technics as ‘repetition of the wrong kind’ and stated that ‘objective thinking is therefore aware only of itself’ (1846).

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