I have observed

~ I have observed ~ By the Safety Cynic (that's me)

I have observed the poor and careless efforts of leaders, I have seen the result of lax systems and overcomplicated methodologies. I have seen the promotion of hiding valuable truths and judging with a protective bias. I have seen the misguided.

It is for these deficiencies I get frustrated...doing is so easy.

We often see a long list of recommendations after a major incident, we often see over reactive actions. We see many say what should have happened, what should have been done and what should have been in place, this said often by those who should have done in the first place. This in-itself is reactive. "Those should haves, should have done".

I believe what we all need to "do" is get talking, get asking questions, get thinking, get listening, get time to evaluate news and information, get time to read and learn from experts and non-experts who have been writing about how to improve safety for years and get active by being proactively focused on failures.

We need to not only read through these mindful views; we need to put them into practice. I have heard many people say "yeah, I read that or went to that course" only to not apply anything that was promoted.

The only way we are ever going to reduce these controllable incidents is if we "get serious" not "consider serious". Training has to be functional, risk management has to be implemented, incident investigations need to be thorough and most of all; we need to ensure pressures are controlled in an manner that gives conducting tasks an ethical sense of practicality.

Safety does not belong to the safety department or to the safety officer; safety belongs to each one of us and each one of us is within an entity, and entities should be as one. MD

If you feel anything on this site is incorrect or false, please let me know and I will investigate.

I also need to aplogise for any spelling mistakes...I am not an educated person and believe it or not left school mostly illiterate.


The critical thinking safety pragmatist

Please share this site with others

You may think by this loud presentation of safety cynicism that I despise safety, but read carefully and with an open mind and with no bias views and just maybe you will see that I am very passionate and concerned about the result of safety. So I dare you to take the journey to find out


Sapere aude

"Safety won't improve because we have priced ourselves out of practicable safety practice. We as a collective society are not prepared to pay for reasonable safety time as we want everything cheap and we want it today. If I said that I was introducing a safety tax...people would jump up and down because we are not prepared to pay for this level of safety, so when a worker dies of what i have named 'Pressure Induced Inconvenient Event' (PIIE) because of some cost cutting exercise, or because of pressure to produce (PTP) maybe we are all to blame. Cheap clothes, cheap technology, cheap food etc are all cheap because we ignore those things that give safety, and human rights to fair work conditions; what we fail to see is what  we fail to do" MD

There are few, if any moral, open and transparent corporations, and they do not allow for people to choose thinking or innovate safety; these two things cost money

Have a guess for what!

It’s despairingly funny...As an experiment I have contacted executive managers and leaders via email to advise of what I had observed and risks being taken in their organisations...To no surprise to me, I had not one reply; officers don't care. All I will do is wait until someone gets hurt or killed, then offer my knowledge.

Why are people so foolish and naïve to think big business is really concerned with people, safety and the environment...THEY ARE NOT!
I myself have seen enough in my time in safety to get out of the ass covering and fear industry, as not one company I have worked for was proactive in risk mitigation and all covered up and or downplayed incident causalities.
(story on Safety HERE)

Welcome to the critical thinking pragmatist viewpoint on safety in today’s working environment.

What is the critical thinking pragmatist point of view on safety? Safety has become a sector full of, unethical ass covering methods, self proclaimed experts who have not worked in the sector, but who have all the answers, legal fear mongering, trivial jargon and over complicated safety systems and topics that have been introduced, invented, reinvented, plagiarised, altered, made up, and lied about by people looking to cash in or to make their role seem significant and indispensable. Safety is a multibillion dollar industry and many are out to protect their incomes.

My core philosophy is doing what we have in place now (simple first HERE) and get this right and in practice, before going hunting for the new complex thing that promises to fix safety. As I have said many times; I have not seen or been in an organisation that has done risk management properly (the basics). Maybe if we focused on this simple approach and did the what is advertised via laws and best practices etc to its practicable best, many incidents would not occur. We should only move up into more complex topics once we know about the basic, but one would have to ask, would there be a need to make something more complex if the simple was being practiced?.  

I look at all these new safety ideas/systems coming out by safety experts and how they claim they will 'save safety' with such overkill topics as psychology and BBS and not to mention Safety II and Safety Differently, it is such a con on the context collective mindsets won't change, humans are humans. If you train a person the best way, give them the best tools and equipment, and do not pressure them, the rest will fall into place (including safety) if they are intrinsically motivated, how hard is that!

"If 80% of people don't enjoy their jobs and even a higher number of people are not in the right role, what hope have we got to motivate people with safety when money is the motivator. It's time to accept that incidents occur because most people are not intrinsically motivated doing what they want, they are pressured to work and forced into slave labour HERE all in return for; what we are sold as a normal existence or the humanised way"  MD

We are wasting so much money, time and effort on safety programs, we employ safety people who make no real improvement in safety (nothing others like foreman and managers could not do as mindful people), and like the constant changes in government who still have not fixed education, health, and jobs, there is no long term plan in our mist. If safety was not a requirement (law & reputation) there would be very few organisations that would even contemplate having a specific safety department or safety workers. They would see (as I do) that safety is as easy as having managers, foreman and other leaders promoting safety in an everyday manner, that giving training and providing good tools and equipment is the most fundamental aspect of providing safety (have these things and safety will result). Honestly, do we really need a safety person or manager advising people to be safe...think about it (to many topics make up safety...safety is many things). Research into why most incidents happen and you will see there is not much that could be done to stop having these incidents in our current pressured and stresses environment that is full of poor plant and equipment and greedy organisations. Safety today is all about protecting organisations (and now their officers) from lawsuits and fines. Its about keeping a score so they can be seen as the 'safe' company so they can win the next contract. 

It is a sad state of affairs when a law (harmonisation 2012) like here in Australia, has to be introduced, to make officers interested in safety as if they had no responsibility in the first place!. If these officers where proactive and responsible in safety to start with, such a law would not have been needed now would it...but this prove my point about collective safety not improving, as I cannot see how introducing a law will control safety in the context of mindfullness! 

Then we get safety websites that constantly compare risk taking in extreme sport and life (see one of my many replies to this site HERE) with risk taking in the workplace (Embracing risk HERE). I do not think these people understand risk management in the workplace context; and are heavily influenced by childhood learning and meaning of life. Workplace risk management is where the risk assessments (simplistic to complex) give what risk is to be taken, risk is mitigated and controlled...not taken.

In sport and in life we do need to take risks to feel alive, but this risk is on the person, not an organisation. In an organisation you should respect that risk taking is not to be taken lightly. Allowing for people to make their own choice on risk is naive thinking as not all people have a good risk appitite.

These sites also promote psychology as the next big thing, yet much of what they say is impractical, irresponsible and dangerous (such as telling us to be loose on law and rules and unlearn orthodox safety). They also just basically cover the topic of consultation, which is reframed in many different ways to make it sound new and complex. I have also not seen any actions of what we can do but lots of what has happened (psychology is retrospective). I see a lot of comments about finding a middle ground, but no examples. They say we need less rules but don't give what one should go, they say we need to reduce paperwork but don't say which paperwork. The reason is that they cannot give examples. So I have to ask...WHAT ARE THEY SELLING? how to be a moral human? what is moral? 

I also see that academics HERE rule the world of safety. It is almost like they are the only ones who have a thinking brain (so what they went to uni and memorised data, this is nothing to do with thinking), the rest of us are just there to follow their every word as gospel. The academics are themselves so cynical about many things in safety (even though they despise the cynical term and blame this as a major contributor to a toxic environment) yet they fail to acknowledge that it is their academic friends who create how safety is to work.

The safety person/department is left to carry the weight of this collective safety failure and is often called many negative terms, such as spudheads or fun police by experts who seem to want to segregate safety even further. If safety people are being called spud heads (people who are shaped to suit others), then I would have to ask who creates them? if safety people are spud heads for taking their role seriously, then so must be police, military personnel and anyone else who has to follow rules to do their job.
Being a safety person I believe has to return back to the role of advisor, auditor, collaborator and investigator, nothing more and nothing less. They have to stop being shaped into roles and responsibilities that suit others HERE out of convenience and cost cutting. Even the term environment should be taken out of the HSE tittle. Environmental care is a specialised area, and I doubt many in safety would know much about environmental studies. Its a specialist role such as psychology, learning etc. This is why I say safety is made up by many things. Safety is not something you can do!
Many specifically trained experts are trying to add to the role of a safety advisor as a way to market/sell some safety system/concept and business accepts this because it is cheaper to have a multi-skilled role to save money than having to employ the expertise of another for a specific sector. If you break down the role a safety person today, there is a low percentage of role congruence being applied to the practice of safety and risk management. It is mostly reviewing lots of meaningless paperwork, preparing reactive investigation reports, doing trivial audits that really result in no actions, training work topics that they themselves have little experience in, assessing, filling out return to work forms, attending training on how to "become", and lots of other mundane stuff that is secondary to proactive safety. 

I am the point that I really think there is no need for safety people if we continue down this pathway of expecting the safety person to be all they are not. One company I worked for said the role of safety is now 80% training and assessment. In this case the role tittle should be renamed, but then this would not meet the complience of safety coverage!.
The safety person has become the scapegoat for the true leaders within the organisation. Ownership of safety is constantly expressed by some experts as the responsibility of safety people and departments. There are self claimed safety experts writing topics on some safety web sites that say safety people need to be "change/culture managers" HERE and should have expertise in all manner of topics such as psychology, teaching, and language. It is a dam shame these people add to the confusion and negative discourse in safety. If these people had actually been in front line safety, they would know the i$$ues. Being a consultant, or coming into safety via other accidental means, does not give this level of understanding.
From my leanings and understanding in safety; you can have the best SMS, expertise experts, award wining logos and posters, and all means of other purchased silver bullets, but none of these will make a dam bit of difference to the fact that; pressure has the greatest influence on negative outcomes. Almost all incidents I have investigated or have learned about occurred due to something that was forced by pressures/demands.
For some reason in our optimistic safety world, these pressure/greed topics hardly get raised, its always something else; like workers not concentrating. I think over time we will see this topic of pressure/greed creep into expert writing more as they will soon see what I have been saying all this time. There is no method that can change the drive to make profit, its what business is about.
Safety will never succeed under pressures realm!
 My meaning of Pressure Induced Inconvenient Event (PIIE); something that happened, that those in control wish did not, but knew could happen, but did nothing, because of the pressure to accomplish something, which was coerced upon regardless of any cost.
Why did I come up with this term? Why PIIE? -- because from my research, pressure (time, money, reputation etc) is the main causality of many incidents. You cannot dispute the evidence of this unfortunate drive we have to produce all sorts of things in the shortest, cheapest ways.. 

We all work in a society/culture that creates pressures and it is us who create it; it is then these pressures that are the main causality of almost all incidents both directly and indirectly within the working sector (indirectly would be such things as stress related deaths). Safety is not the number one key objective in the workplace as commonly heard, its growth, success and money. Frontline human workers are for a better part just a replaceable collateral cog in this whole process, a necessary means to an end that provides profit.

Work kills so many people each year (more than we dare to know outside the documented 160 odd per year in Australia) that we really do need a minute of silence and a ceremony each year to respect the dead and injured. If as many soldiers died or were seriously injured each year at work, there would be an outcry. NOW there is an idea someone can advertise to make them known, the workers in which we respect foundation!.
"Tell me how any safety program/system can reduce

pressure to produce (PTP)

and then I may listen, for

Pressure is the antecedent to almost all tragic events" MD
The way some people are subjected to pressures at work, the tasks some people are made to do in my eyes is not to dissimilar to acts of terrorism (the corporate version that subjects their workers to fears of job security). The terrorists being the officers, shareholders and or owners of organisations who inconveniently ignore safety issues to ensure there is no negative effect of profit or reputation. We all have seen the media coverage of one gunman holding up a café in Sydney, and that it seems to me that having a gun and holding people hostage is different to holding a worker hostage with pressures and forcing them to risk their life doing an unsafe task. How many flowers and tributes do the 160 plus killed workers get each year, let alone any mention in the news. A soldier gets killed doing their job and we have a state funeral and all sorts of support is offered. A worker gets killed and it’s kept quite. Do you get my point; workers who die are treated like robots. Its time to respect the workers who are killed and make note how devastating the workplace can be. Its also time these officers get named and demoted from managing organisations. To many of these officers who have ignored safety to gain profit are still out their putting people at risk. These people are criminals!!!

I am not holding this gun to your head, but...if you don't ignore safety procedures, cut some corners, and hurry up
I have been raising this topic of pressure induced inconvenient events (PIIE) for a while because accidents and incidents don't really relate to me anymore: As pressure/greed makes for unsafe workplaces. While some try and steer clear of this pressure topic, and while some experts are cynical and critical of my thinking, this site will give the evidence to why we have tragic events occurring and why most safety noise being sold today won’t make a dam bit of difference. If people don't go to work to hurt themselves then selling a new how to not hurt yourself is not going to do anything. Selling somthing that says why we may do something is also not a tangable solution.

Pike River was a Pressure Induced Incident, the NASA Challenger shuttle Incident was a Pressure Induced Incident, Deepwater Horizon was a Pressure Induced Incident, Longford was a Pressure Induced Incident, Beaconsfield mine collapse, the guy who lost his fingers in a machine, and the girl who cut her finger while hurrying to staple paperwork for her boss  and many many more. Many Incidents are borne form the pressures of supply and demand to make money. Not many are talking about this Pressure Induced issue because it’s to confronting and truthful. This topic goes against the key principle of business "grow grow grow". There is not a lot anyone can do about this issue of pressure and greed, which is why you don't see experts selling solutions for this key issue.

Pressure to supply (make money) stops training from being done, Pressure to supply stops maintenance programs, Pressure to supply creates stress, Pressure to supply causes unhealthy competition, Pressure to supply neglects the human needs of safety and community, and Pressure to supply makes people do negative things and deviate from the acceptable and the rules.

The reason most of these experts who are trying to sell their trivial systems do not like my opinion, is because there is nothing they can sell that will slow or undo pressure related factors (time, money, reputation). A company will not purchase any system that reduces a profit margin by increasing time delays. Time delays that would give some practicable time to work though safety issues and real preventive actions. Workers for a better part cannot even do a safety procedure properly because they are told to hurry up. Workers who are supposed to be participating don't say anything because they will get the look. How can anyone take this topic serious in this sort of environment. This is why I get upset when some experts say to unlearn safety topics. If we just started to do Risk Management as its supposed to be done, many incidents would not occur.

So, the pressures I am discussing in my philosophy are those that cause deaths and serious injuries to people and which also degrade our fragile environment. In our culture, we are not allowing ourselves to be appropriately time managed. By this I mean we do not cost out tasks on a fair level of  safe labour effort. We continually under the realm of profiteering/greed cut back on labour time to meet a deadlines and expectations. If we were doing safety properly there would be a 15% safety component added to all jobs (6hrs a week in a 40hr week given to safety). So sadly, these profiteering inspired leaders continue to ignore the real issues of safety (the ones that cause the most risk) and continue to hope luck will see them through.

We have been trying to make safe “safety” for many, many years, yet sadly, a mean level of incidents still occur relative to work task, laws and safer technologies, we are at a constant mean level.
We cannot unconditionally make safe safety, but business continually accepts any new concept in hope this will solve the issue of perpetual inconvenient events from happening in their workplace. But as I keep saying; there is no cure for this corporate/social greed. We all want this fast and cheap.
This continual acceptance of safety concepts is in itself driven by greed, as safety is related to profiteering (a low LTI rate will win contracts, it will mitigate litigation and lower downtime). Its not about the worker, its about the fear of having a strike against your name. I know the sugar coated spiel we hear all the time about CEOs etc not wanting to hurt workers (we all should want this just as we want no children starving in Africa), but in reality, they can’t reduce risk to ALARP, for if they did, they would send their business broke just as we all would go broke if we all donated money to save 3rd world poverty. No CEO will ever say that safety is not their number one priority (it's immoral), just as much as they will not say their products are cheap and made with slavery.
In safety, we need to concern ourselves with lowing risk to As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP). Now, this is a broad term, but its massage is profoundly simple; use what we know or have access to, to keep risk mitigated. It is a simple philosophy yet not well practiced through Risk Management. The two main reasons for this ignorant laziness I feel is; 1) that we cannot accept that we have reached the equilibrium point of risk v reward and 2) that even simple safety costs time and money.

Take for example the simple task of conducting a job safety procedure (JSA, SWMS, SOP, etc). I have yet to see this process conducted with due practicability from initiation to revision outside those specialist sectors that respect procedures. While this is a simple process and it method well documented, its endeavour is mostly vast and complex, which is why most risk management fundamentals are not done and why many don’t take it seriously Only time can grant an endeavour and a practicable outcome, and what do we know about time?
Simple does work as has been working very well (as our death rates are stable) for years, yet we still continue to believe that we can control the human mind, randomness, uncertainty and fallibility by implementing some new silver bullet idea in hope of gaining perfection (or zero). It is this dissonance that keeps pushing us towards seeking dominion of natural/instinctual governance.
Some sites claim that psychology, learning and behaviour based safety is the answer, but I have argued many times that this is also a fallacy. It’s a fallacy simply based on the fact that pressure to produce (PTP) manipulates principles and decisions we make regardless of anything we are educated or trained in.

Many good leaders make bad choices under pressure, and no leader I know practices how to handle pressure for any given scenario let alone one they have know idea about. We are dealing with unpredictable humans. Our knowledge of the human mind is constantly changing with new evidence derived from sciences every day. It is for this reason I continually say that we know very little about us, This is why I also say that we need to be careful adopting new ways because some study was done. I also have to mention this is why I am very cynical about some professionals/experts who claim they know everything. They could know everything about a particular topic because they read it, but this data that filled their empty vessels could be wrong and out-dated.

I have had some strong opposition from some experts on pressure produced inconvenient events, yet this topic is a major causal factor, if not the highest causality factor in almost every tragic incident around the world from minor to catastrophic.
So this site is going to reveal safety in a reality based cynical manner using critical thinking and my own philosophy derived from my time in safety. I will respond to other topics written on other sites and give my opinion to these. I will also analyse and seek clarity on topics that seem to be bias towards the promotion of their ideology.

I am not out to attack others or demean others (although some deserve it as they dish it out), I am challenging their views and opinions. I know far too well that we know very little about most things in life, and in particular about how our brain works. We may think we know everything but I cannot subscribe this principle as history has constantly showed we are ever-evolving and ever-learning and ever full of mistakes. So just because some PHD or Dr has written a paper or conducted a study, does not mean it's correct for today's workplace.


Click photo to see my concern about GREED, I am not alone in my thinking in relation to the sad state of the world. While MaxQ is talking about social dystopia, corporate greed is always true here in safety also, and we are all afraid of law and or being in the out-group for raise concerns. While I wish for freedom and less laws, humankind cannot be trusted with such liberty as well proven by history. So we make fear as a way to control us, this is true in safety also.

"And the corporate snakes coming in to feed

On that pathetic fact known as human greed

Skin and bone being raked over those hot coals

This dump never seems to give time for human soul

And all those things that we have learnt

No time for questions, you'll just get burnt

You'll just get burnt"

I could easy relate this verse above to workers being killed and injured due to PIIE, we have no time to answer questions, if you do ask, you're targeted as a trouble maker. I have been forced to leave jobs because I did my job to well, think I am up myself saying this? well I have much evidence (emails, voice recordings etc) that will show I am a victim of people protecting whatever to keep their jobs and or not having blame put onto the organisation. See when I work, I say it how it is and go deep to find real causal factors while other safety people are watching movies and talking about girls in the office. I am not afraid like so many are, I speak up, show the real evidence (people who really care often get punished). I will say to any new safety person wanting to do the right thing, don’t...I was a fool, so learn from my foolishness. Thinking there is such a thing as a just culture... The only job for me would be an external investigator or auditor, because I cannot work “in” an organisation that has no interest in real proactive safety, where taking shortcuts are the norm, where managers don’t leave their offices, where workers group together to have the safety by numbers mindset and where all blame is on the workers.

What is a safety person? And why is the OHS sector in dissonance?

Turning people into those who know lots about everything to a point they know little about anything

"Turning people into those who know lots about everything to a point they know little about anything, is what many out to make a dollar from safety are making"

Reading through many safety topics and replied comments on safety sites and blogs, (sites that have been written by mostly self proclaimed safety experts with clean hands), experts that have on the better part of their working life have never been in front or middle line safety roles themselves to now between real and hearsay, and listening to their various perspectives on what they think safety is, it is little wonder why the term ‘safety’ has become such a despised word in workplaces and why dissonance is growing within the safety sector itself.
Safety has become a joke of its own making

Some of these experts are trying to blame the front line safety people for all the wrongdoings and failing of safety. They say safety people have little idea about many expertise topics and that they should become highly educated in such topics as psychology, teaching and engineering just to name a few. Do these highly strung experts really think that the general safety person is the reason why OHS is in such a poor state and that it is these safety people who are to blame for this growth towards such a unconstructive OHS culture?

Maybe instead of specific safety people being multi-skilled in all areas, why doesn’t the officers, construction foremen, production mangers, human resources, etc just promote safety in their areas...then the workplace will not need specialised safety people!

I think many posts/comments made by these people are highly bias towards their own ideals and self promotion, and anyone who reads through them can easy see this for themselves...oh look I am presenting here, I have a new book, I can parrot and take ideas... etc etc . These people are full of biases, and some sites/cults and groups so highly edited/protected (feedback and replies edited or not shown, others blocked) by the site owners/snake oil sellers to protect their vested interest and self gains. Humans will go a long way to protect those (so called experts) who can help them in some way better their careers or lifestyle...and boy I have seen my share of dumb arse footsoildiers!.

I think the issue with some of these experts is they have not worked as a frontline safety person to fully understand the real issues that face many frontline safety people in today’s environment (as in the role of safety owner). There is big difference between having to do what you need to do as a safety worker(in it current context of manager of safety), than being a consultant that comes and goes with no real requirement or obligations (or havign to work with management and workers). How many of these titled experts are pushing their own agendas have had to conduct a risk assessment or incident investigation on their own, or for that matter, work through an audit based on legislative requirements, then have to give real reports!. The promotion from some experts to ignore legislation, safety systems and processes and to just use such topics as psychology, worker free choice, work as done is nothing less than idiotic in a professional sense and dangerous in a risk considering how our culture operates.

All many of these experts are promoting is a car sales pitch based on their specific expertise to sell a system they are making a business on. Then they think they can come in with their expert views and ideologies and think they know what it is like in the real world. We see this all the time in industry and business where some ‘expert’ (academic who lives in dreamerstan world) comes in and sells their linear text book stuff (mostly written by those who also have not been there at the coalface to understand key issues themselves) to an organisation, only for the organisation to find out in the end it was not the right direction for their organisation and or added no real value at all because they cannot even affors to practice basic safety.

I am totally against complexity in safety, as history is constantly telling us that simple often works the best. There are just too many people with their own profiteering agendas pushing unnecessary topics into such sectors as safety for any real good to suffice. Sure, I acknowledge safety has issues just like many sectors, but I believe this is fundamentally due to the role of the safety position being turned into too much of a multi-skilled role for any real benefit.

These experts are trying to make ‘Safety People’ take on way to much, and own to much. These experts are saying safety people should be managers, leaders, psychologists, document writers, engineers, environmentalists, trainers, educators, risk owners, police, medical practitioners, auditors, incident investigators, graphic designers, purchasers, researchers, consolers, data analysts, spokespeople, issue solvers, angels looking out over everyone and of course the person who owns safety failure when things go bad. They are clearly wanting to make a business selling snake oil, their interest is not making for a workable solution.

As I have said many times, if these people want the industry to change for the better, they have to start with legislation; that being the reducing of culpability (lawsuits) etc. The No Win No Fee system and Workers Cover world we live in will never allow for individual ownership of blame. A worker hurts themselves doing something they were not supposed to do and the they are entitled to all sorts of compensation. The reality though is lawsuits won’t change because the blame game shapes everything and everyone is in debt to accountability (I have since named this Epiculture - we all create the culture we get in our workplaces by not wanting to pay for safety).

Organisations are in a tough predicament most of the time in relation to best practice OHS. There are profits that need to be made and people to satisfy. There are time lines and budgets that have to be met. This is where safety becomes the double edge sword. It’s needed to look after people, but it costs a lot of time and money if managed mindfully and completely. If organisations don’t manage safety, the organisation and those officers making the decisions are going to be found liable, they own the risk...not the worker. It’s like not wearing a seatbelt, you know it’s there to be put on, you have read the instruction manual on driving that tells you to put your seat belt on, you have been trained, so if you don’t put it on you will be fined. It’s that simple.

The push from experts for safety people and the safety sector to pick up their people skills and learn about such topics as psychology etc is missing the whole point of a mindfulness organisation. This thinking denotes safety as the sole owners of safety and risk. This ideology would be fine if safety people owned and managed risk, but they don't, and anyone who says different really needs to understand corporate governance and enterprise risk management. If people don’t respect what safety is (or should be) and the role of a safety person (what they do), then sorry, this is a cultural issue and needs to be rectified by the leaders or manages of the organisation.

Some non front line trained safety experts have constantly noted in many various ways that it is the safety sector and safety people that is at fault for the dissonance in safety. Safety people are not, nor should not be the decision makes and we have to make this very clear. We also have to greatly consider the fact that ‘experts’ have written the laws that safety is governed by, and thats that. What about the officers of the company, the managers, the foreman, the ones who are supposed to be overseeing the safe operation, why have they been ignored by these experts? I believe that the targeting of “safety people” is purely based on being able to sell safety systems and keep safety as its own thing.

Alluding that psychology would have stopped some of the biggest incidents to date is in my mind a false representation of the common issue present here. There is a greater reason as to why people are exposed to risk and I will discuss this at a later time. But incidents such as Pike River, Beaconsfield, the many BPs, NASA, Longford etc clearly shows other key factors were at play. Incidents like this occur are due to pressures, and it is far more reaching than saying we just need to simply learn more about building relationships, engaging others, understanding human decision making, improved listening and communication skills, supervision skills and a host of capabilities that can be delivered through expertise in psychology, sociology, education, learning, leadership, management and social psychology.

Most decision makers know what’s right and wrong (safety is a choice), what has to be done safely etc, but when budgets, production, timelines and reputation need to be met, the difference between doing the right thing or cutting corners depends on livelihood and success (so choosing unsafety is the choice made). As I have often said;
“there is a right and a wrong way, the right way usually being the hard way and the wrong way usually being the easy way…human nature dictates that laziness is a key survival trait, so we prefer the easy way, which is the most often the wrong way”

I have walked away from great paying jobs simply because I was not prepared to cut corners, I have seen management pay for an under the counter audit pass to win a contract, I have seen incidents covered up and not reported, I have seen workers blamed when the real blame belonged to senior management. Those who are still working in these organisations are still there working knowing and participating in this activity because they are in debt have families to provide for and have bills to pay. Morality simply cannot exist when money is the driving force.

Reality Question; if everyone was kindly ‘asked’ to fit a satellite tracker (in vehicle monitoring system) to their vehicles (so police can manage safety) and a speed controller that does not allow you to go over the area speed limit, would you freely put it into your car if it cost $3000? No….ok what if those who put into their cars got free fuel for 5 years? Now you say yes…you were not prepared to spend $3000 of safety but you were when you had a chance to benefit. See my point.

As far as I am concerned, you could ask these developed and frame questions that Dr Long uses in his surveys of workplaces for any group of people around the world for any topic related to learning, people and leadership etc, and the results would come out the same. We all wish for better skills and we all wish to be heard, respected, treated like people, but reality is reality and budgets and other constraints often negate this. Accidents such as Pike River occurred for no other reason than pressure to produce. It’s the same reason why the space shuttle blew up and why these big accidents occur. No amount of psychology, learning or understanding how we make choices would have stopped these incidents from occurring. OHS was ignored under pressure to met expectations.

All this noise being created by some professionals is making safety complex, thus creating an over-complication of a relatively simple system and role. I do not understand why the role of a safety person needs to be turned into a more complex role when many safety people do not even exercise the current prescribed ways or in some cases not even permitted to exercise prescribed ways. If a safety person wishes to learn about how humans think and how best to learn, pick a book up and do some research. What, you saying you don’t have time or money to learn it yourself and you want a certificate that deems you competent for your resume? Well there is the answer why people may not be good at safety, they are not passionate enough. I have seen people go to lunch and talk nothing about their work at work, go home and play computer games, and party on etc. That’s fine, but a truly passionate person reads literature in their lunch break, they prefer to study and practice instead of playing computer games. People like Edison, Einstein, the great engineers, the great thinkers, the great mathematicians etc were devoted to their work. Sure, there is time to play, but thinking is always in their minds. So to get around this problem of lack of expertise, what these experts are pushing hard for is for business to pick up the bills and to make time. Here is the problem in the real world, these businesses don’t make time now for practicing or fully educating their workers that cover the necessities such as fully learning risk management practices and legislative requirements. It is simply a cost that could cripple an organisation.

The nudging of specific expertise into and onto the safety sector is feeding this over-complication monster and is making way for undue failures and total sector fractionalisation. I understand and respect the idea on face value, and also agree with the principle behind the logic (making for a safer workplace), but the focus should not be targeting an additive approach, but a reductionist approach (less is better) instead. Maybe we could attempt to adjust and better educate the current processes so as to make it clearer as to how safety utilizes and gathers practicable advice when considered necessary. If a risk assessment warrants the input form an expert, then they seek it. If the incident investigation warrants expert advice, then they seek it.

Expecting that ‘safety people’ (proclaimed owners of safety) become experts in all factions that constitute a collective entity (safety) is unrealistic. Expecting that accountability of such a broad spectrum of competence belong to a single faction or person is absurd, illogical and dangerous, particularly when the management of risk and safety is in itself, a collective undertaking that all within that entity has partial ownership of, something Dr Long does not address. There is just way too much education/knowledge needed to be an expert in such a broad scope of topics, that it would be impossible for one to have enough time to be fully classed as collectively competent (knowing all about all).

So this is where I allude to the ‘danger’ of such illogical thinking. Instead of safety people seeking expertise from people who stay in competence within their field of expertise, we would end up having safety people making choices based on incomplete, broad, fast-tracked knowledge. The diverse workload that a proactive safety person currently has entrusted upon them today cannot warrant specific expertise in any all topics and I really feel is not needed. You would not expect an accountant to have expert knowledge of psychology or engineering, but you can expect the accountant to seek expert knowledge from either to curb spending. Having a general competency in human interaction, compassion, empathy and having some basic people skills should be fine in most cases. If you are required to be more, then the employment processes should sort this out via key selection criteria.

If we were to go down this avenue of increasing OHS specific expertise competence, I would say based on current history of accreditation (as seen already in OHS with fast tracked, online safety training and RPL) that specialist expertise knowledge would also greatly lose significance. Over time, you would be able to do an engineering or psychology course on line for a cheap price (each being different in the training material). Just think of the implications of this for one moment, there are lives that could be at stake due to the bad choices made by bad learning implemented by incompetent proclaimed experts who in law are not classed as experts anyway. Keep this expertise where it needs to stay. If one wishes to have better knowledge about any specific profession they feel might ‘assist’ them in their role, then fair enough. But we should not allow for this better knowledge as a means to shortcut and save money (a factor that will be used) in the safe operation of the organisation.

The current OHS material, systems and processes the safety sector has available today is more than adequate and is a practicable system. It is a system developed and updated by leading safety experts that have all worked together to bring together a system that is easy to follow and understand (if one takes the time to understand it). From Acts, Regulations, Codes, Standards, Guidelines to the SIA, the Body of knowledge to industry specific material. Everything a safety person/officer requires to meet theirs and their organisations obligations is either found in these documents or found in specific industry material. Other such information is found via experts.

We have to ask this question; do we need to even start looking at this option and can it really be justified as a tangible option. I believe this ideology is putting unnecessary impetus into a sector that already has great obligations to meet and one that has a heavy workload (if being proactive that is). Many of the large scale incidents around the world such as; Pike River, the NASA Challenger shuttle, Deepwater Horizon, Longford Esso, BP Texas Refinery, Gulf of Mexico, occurred because simple, practicable and well documented tools and systems were not used as prescribed. All the expertise needed to manage risk was there, but not used.

I believe some professionals are contributing to safety dissonance and adding to the confusion that already exists in relation to ‘what is a safety person and what do they do’, especially when they call safety people potato heads and spud heads. Many professional forces undue obligations and blame onto the safety sector and safety people, blaming them for not having expertise in specific fields of knowledge that falls under his realm of knowledge. Although I see this target audience may be changing as the need shifts to leaders and officers. I feel this is simply is the wrong approach because it is not a requirement for a safety person to have these specific skills.

So let’s pause...

STOP. THINK. Safety people are NOT the owners of ‘safety’, the same way police officer’s are not the owners of protection.

1. Does a safety person need to expertise in engineering?

2. Does a safety person need to expertise in psychology?

3. Does a safety person need to expertise in environment?

4. Does a safety person need to expertise in developing culture?

5. Does a safety person need to expertise in leadership?

6. Does a safety person need to expertise in management?

7. Does a safety person need to expertise in decisions and judgment making?

8. Does a safety person need to be an expert on specific aspects of safety - like ergonomics or confined spaces or systems or whatever?

All these answers are NO! (In the black and white sense) – Many frontline safety people who feel they need to have these competencies to exemplify the safety role, are saying they don’t learn about these topics in safety training (Cert IV, Diplomas, and Degrees etc). The reason for this is very simple; safety people don’t learn anything about these expertise subjects in OHS training is because they don’t need to be an expert on these subjects to be able to fulfil their role as a safety person. All safety people should be able to work in almost any sector, its the same thing.

It is a ‘bonus’ for the organisation if you are one of these experts turn safety people, but, it is not the general requirement to fill this role. If an organisation wants to employ the services of any of these expertise's, then they should advertise the required expertise first i.e. Wanted, psychologist with OHS qualifications. Wanted, engineer with OHS qualifications. Wanted, environmentalist with OHS qualifications, etc. It should not be the other way around as seen in job ads. In saying this though, we also have to be vigilant about employing expertise, as it has been shown in many cases, expert advice can be wrong and fail also. One expert advice may differ from the next based on biases and education.

These expertise's listed above are not owned by safety people, nor should they be. The information that is needed to assist safety people in doing their job is there or obtainable (through internal and external experts and literature). I.e. if you are investigating a mechanical failure on a bit of plant, you as a safety person seek appropriate expert advice form the mechanic or engineer (just as the courts will do), along with the facts presented in OHS documents such as Standards that tell us what is required. The information a safety person gains is then transferred into a recommendation that officers or managers can interpret, so they can decide on the best action.

These expertise subjects that safety people are supposedly meant to be qualified experts in have been slowly introduced over time. They come from job descriptions advertising terms such as leaders, change managers, human factor specialists etc, talk about spending years learning all about these things.

Then safety people feel pressured to be these things, or feel obligated to fulfil these requirements. Very misleading role requirements, unwarranted and is the cause of distaste in terms of safety (because safety people feel they have to be the owner of making safe safety). Look at some safety consultants bios; they range from saying they are safety culture developers, to psychological analysts to safety leaders and risk experts...really.

1. Is it a safety person’s job to find hazards and manage risk?

2. Is it a safety person’s job to implement controls?

3. Is it a safety person’s role to do a risk assessment?

No, these things are a collective effort that requires consultation. Not one person owns any of these tasks. It is the safety person’s job to help facilitate, coordinate etc with managers, but not do per se. I.e. if you have finalised your risk assessment and a control needs to be implemented, the manager, foreman, supervisor etc overseeing that task is the one who should implement the control, not the safety person.

So, what do I think a safety person is; A safety person is a collaborator of OHS facts. A safety person is an interpreter of OHS legislation. A safety person is an assistant to managers. they are not owners of safety.

There is also no need to specialise safety training to be industry specific as mentioned by some. The idea is good, but again unwarranted. Why? Because a safety person should be able to do their job in any industry or sector. There have been many successful CEOs that have been entrusted with leading an organisation they had little prior knowledge about, but they did their job well and lead the organisation as a CEO (I am not sure there is a school on CEOing). This is how I see safety.

All this talk about clubs, associations, Linkedin groups etc is all such nonsense and is just going to add to the noise. It will also add more work, more specialised tools to be used, more assessments and more confusion, all adding to the dissonance towards ‘safety’. Can you imagine a safety person going around the worksite with critical thinking tool and a list of psychological questions to analyse workers to see if they are safe or not. I think we need to investigate the motives of some these people and be skeptical about the direction they are trying to nudge us towards. Is it really in the best interest of the sector, workers and organisation, or is it self-serving and profiteering.

Many experts change their minds to suit the current climate to take advantage of a situation. I have observed some experts one minute saying safety is not a science, then the next linking to another experts who call it such. I have always said safety is a science. Risk and Safety; is a science. Science; Latin scientia, simply meaning "knowledge". I wonder if such experts will tell other expert that “The idea that safety is a ‘science’ baffles the imagination”and that people who think this are “delusional” as quoted in previous topics.
There is a lot of money to be made in OHS selling snake oil and silver bullets by telling everyone the old way is not working, when the truth is that the old way is being flooded with all the new stuff and being forgotten after not even being tried. The old is not working because people don't use it...period!.

Everything a safety person needs (outside of experience, aptitude and personality) is there in black and white and is found under; Acts, Regulations, Codes, standards and best practices and industry specific information.

How about safety people focus on getting good at understanding OHS obligations, practice consultation and become proud about being a person who is there to help bring it all together and assist those who are time deprived and who are focusing on their expertise.

There are so many safety people out there that have not read the basic stuff let alone understand it, then they say OHS is not good enough or needs improvement. If safety people are stopped from trying to be something they are not meant to be, or being forced into undue expertise that they have little knowledge about, then people may start to respect the safety sector and safety people not as police, leaders, controllers or implementers, but as people who are there audit and investigate.

Calling people ‘spud heads’ and saying they need to be Bi-polar?

The next thing safety people will need to be educated in is acting!


This article/concept from Dr Long HERE is referring to all safety people as potato heads. As per this article and the concept behind what is a virtue of a potato head; a potato head is able to switch body parts and take on a different persona. Kids used to make their own potato heads into anyone they wanted.

My philosophical question would be to this whole concept; who creates the spud-head? If a potato head is made/shaped so must be a spud head, then there must be a creator!

So I suppose what Mr Long is saying or how I read this nonsense, is that safety people can be shaped to suit everyone else. Long did say “because you could make a potato head anything we wanted, he was a chameleon, a fake”. A fake you say...I wonder what a CEO would say if I told them to fit into what others wanted them to be, to be moulded and crafted into anything but their true-self. Then to add his little bit of sarcasm, he makes the point in a typical indirect way that spud heads are a cynic, something Long says makes for a toxic safety culture. If a toxic safety culture is created out of questioning peoples motives and practices to seek out safety, then I have no problems being called a cynic. I do however do not respect the notion that people who question cause toxic workplaces.

What causes toxic workplaces are psychopaths, pathological lies and people with self serving interests. These are the people who get jealous of others who are doing their job and not spending all day working on ways to ruin someone.

Now in relation to the cynic side of the story, I have often debated that there have been many great cynics in history that have improved society, but Long cannot fathom this truth. I think Long might actually be a bit positively cynical about many things himself, but sometimes we cannot see what we truly are.

I have a real problem with this concept of ‘genuine people’ being told to take on a different persona (meaning personality). Whatever happened to just being yourself? Your personality (character) should never change, you are who you are. If you start to role play and are constantly shaped by others, you fragment your own being. Your work/task may change, but your character (nature) should remain the same. Do you come home from work and change into a parent character? I would not think so; ‘you’ come home without the obligations of work filling your mind. Without the thought of work taking up all your energy, you can focus more on the role of parenting, hobbies or whatever, but your character should never change. If you have to take on a different persona, then sadly, I feel you are being false to yourself and to others. How is it possible for others to understand you, if they catch you out somewhere between your shift of persona.

People that act out roles are those trying to be someone their not. This could be driven by fear or by greed. Fear would be being left out of a group/society and greed would be being to persuade others into buying something you are selling. If you look into the Art of Persuasion (or six steps of persuasion), it’s all about learning how to manipulate others and trick others into getting them to give more than they normally would. Politics are a great example of this when election time is due, as is when a salesman is using humble enquiry to make you buy that thing. These people spend a lot of time learning how to manipulate the mind of someone else, how to phrase questions and unconsciously feed information that will lead you into making a favourable choice. Then after you get home and start to think about why you have something you didn’t really want, you then realise you have been cognitively manipulated...you are a sucker.

Telling students or anyone for that matter, that being a safety person requires one to be bi-polar is absurd and unprofessional in my view. Is Long expecting or even wanting safety people to become Schizophrenic as well (failure to recognize what is real or who they are). Why should safety people have to change their persona to make anyone happy? If people don’t respect what safety is (or should be) and also that of the role of a safety person (what they do), then sorry, this is a cultural issue and needs to be rectified by the leaders or manages of the organisation.

In my opinion, Long just loves to denounce others in any way he can (as often self announced in his time on LinkedIn forums etc where he ends up leaving the site due to others lack of  so-called skills an academic knowledge etc). Then if you do not follow his systems or support his ideas he will denounce you and ignore you (ostracising). If you follow Longs literature, you can see how it develops and is shaped to fit feedback. He often has to clarify and make alterations to steer his view point to suit the feedback, then if you challenge him to much he sooks and gets the site owner to delete comments not in his favour.

One minute Long is saying a safety person has to be bi-polar, to then saying we all need to play many different roles. Life is not cosplay!. I would also not think this trait is being bi-polar; it’s being multi-skilled. Dr Long has criticised topics that say people and environment have nothing to do with making conscience decisions, so I wonder what he means by this; “social arrangements shape decision making and judgments”...are not these things the topics that shape conscience judgments?

I am not sure how one can shape anyone into being ‘empathetic’ (entering into a feeling of another), a term Dr Long has prescribed that safety people need to be, but a concept he has referred to that does not exist. An example would be such as when I wrote a topic called Satellite Insightfulness (basically meaning empathetic); having the ability to step away from your-self and put your-self into an external orientation, be it around person or environment. This is another clear example of Longs constant advertising to be the only one who knows anything at all. I suppose he does think he is talking to a bunch a spud heads he is shaping.

For someone that I doubt has ever been a front line safety person (not a manager or consultant), Long sure thinks he knows what it is to be a safety person and what safety people go through on a daily basis. Maybe the saying “it takes one to know one would fit here perfect”. Psychologists and many experts are like this. They read a book, go to uni, watch some Ted talks or review some study done, then think they understand the day to day problems people face. Funny thing is that many academic who are in the one sector can disagree. The world today is too dynamic for this sort of thinking. In a general sense this may be true, but on an individual level this is not true. We can gauge better what a group may do, but not so easy with an individual as we are all chaotic.

Safety people are not discerners of risk, but this types of concept (shaping safety people) again unrightfully entrusts this role onto safety people as the only ones who can discern risk. A safety person is there to advise on what the limits/constraints are to taking a risk with a task (set mostly by legislation), that's it in a nutshell. It is then up to those doing the risk (leaders/workers) to discern it for themselves using this advice. The whole idea that safety people are owners/discerners of risk (although this may change as understanding grows) is unjustified. It is this type of thinking that is making the safety sector more dissented and more divided. Lots of factors and expertise need to be holistically included in the process of discerning risk and the people doing the task will discern it for themselves within the constraints set by such constraining rules.

It is for this reason I believe the term ‘potato/spud head’ is a terribly demeaning, and childish concept. It gives a unwarranted nickname to safety people that is negative. If safety people where the owners and discerners of risk, they still should not be called such a term. The safety person has a role to fill; this role is to advise on constraints. To anyone who says different, I feel they really need to understand corporate governance and enterprise risk management etc. If safety people are not constantly hosted as the “owners of safety” and “change managers” or “culture developers” as so often referred to on safety sites, safety people would not need to shaped into anything or be bipolar, they can just do their job as advisor just like a mechanic is a mechanic and a CEO is a CEO.

Dr Long explains that a potato head knows that projecting into the future or attributing things to the past is spud head thinking. This to me is saying that planning for risk and retrospection is wrong. What is the purpose of a Risk Assessment? And what concept does an incident investigation have to learn from? There you go; anyone who has done a risk assessment and or incident investigations is a “spudhead”. Long has criticised the term hindsight bias, but hindsight (retrospection) can be a very helpful and positive way to help improve for the future even if they say they knew it all along. But saying this has now labelled me a spud head.

Maybe Long is acting like a spud head himself as per his own descriptive list...he maybe a professional pumpkin head...he tells everyone there is a problem with safety, he puts on the angry face when people don't listen to him and his ideals, he thinks everyone is a spud head who is not educated in all things such as comments like this “Spud heads think anyone who takes a risk or makes a mistake is an idiot or stupid. This is all orthodox spud heads have left, they don’t understand human decision making, they don’t understand social psychology, they don’t understand human fallibility”, he dehumanizes others (calling safety people such things as spud heads), he territory protects behind the mask of expertise (known as the curse of knowledge), he makes safety more complex by putting more ownership of skills onto safety people, he continually repeats the nonsense language of safety owning safety, and thinks that responsibility (blame) is nonsense. I wonder if Long has ever done a serious incident report (alone) and I wonder how any report cannot give blame. He does not respect the benefits of hindsight (a key learning tool), and does not think being sceptical/cynical has any good purpose in safety (although many great things have been improved from this very trait) just to name a few topics.

It is for these collective reasons amongst many, that I feel Dr Long does not respectfully represent safety people of what I feel safety is all about.

I think that maybe Long is barking up the wrong tree. If he wants to change the culture of safety into a culture of psychology and learning, he needs to target (shape them) the legal industry, corporate levels and focus on managers and officers; those who do own the ability to change culture and manage risk. I feel Dr Long is too fixated on one area (his expertise in psychology and learning most likely in childhood development) and this is fine, but he cannot constantly tell people to unlearn key safety requirements and rules that are required by law to be followed to ensure best practice.

He tells people that his systems and training discern real risk, yet he does not believe in systems and mechanistic approaches, yet seems to have many. A prime example is his parroted safety maturity chart that represents a typical linear step up to succuss (the goal), yet when questioned about this concept, tries to justify it as a holist approach. As I said in the reply, a step up to a end goal illustration does not represent a holistic approach.  

Based on his maturity chart, how is it possible to create a generative workplace when the first steps required to take are creating systems (something he despises), legislative and engineering controls that have not at this point taken into account the 5th, 6th and 7th + steps; or referred as the social, psychological and humanizing approaches to risk and safety? Surely the first steps would be to understand the social, psychological and humanizing approaches to risk and safety.

The Potato head term does not make for good anyone’s and is nonsense talk. If you have to be shaped by someone else, then you are not you. People should not have to role play like an actor in the work environment as you will lose true reality. Maybe this is a real issue within the workplace, all those scared actors trying to portray themselves as more than they are to be better than everyone else to climb that hierarchical ladder.

If you need to be told how to be ethical, empathetic etc, then you should not work with others as these should be innate dispositions (you cannot make a serial killer feel empathetic). If you are a leader or manager of safety and you don’t have these basic skills already and you need to go and be told how to be these things, then it’s little wonder why safety is in such a bad state. How a manger like this even made it to where they are now must be an injustice, but that’s a different story.

So, if you are unethical, uncaring, generally don’t understand people on the bases they are human just like you, then purchase your educational telling books about these things for a fee, and make sure you get your certificate at the end. Then you can show that to everyone and prove that you are now fully trained on being a caring and just person. 

Please safety people; stay true to yourself...don’t go role playing and don’t allow others to put a dick on your spud forehead, you just might find that you will be called a “dickhead spud-head” also!.