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Zero, The Great Safety Delusion

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This is a book about the toxicity of zero ideology and follows previous publications: The Love of Zero, Human Fallibility and Risk and, Fallibility and Risk, Living With Uncertainty.

This book explores the ideology of zero as it continues to morph into a greater monster and burden for the risk and safety industry. The book takes a Semiotic and Poetic exploration of the many ways zero is used in the safety industry. It uses a concept map to guide thinking and explore the many ways that zero is used and abused as an instrument of power in organisations.

The concept map follows zero identified as: an Ideology, Linguistic construct, Psychological dynamic, Numeric, Unconscious force, Political tool, Ethical negatives and Religious Archetype.

In its very short history zero has morphed from just a target and goal to all of these things listed above. As organisations set their identity to zero things began to change. Zero began to become much more than just a number, this is because it carries an unconscious force embedded in its Archetypical power.

Over the 30 years of its use in Safety and never achieving it, has now become ‘a journey to zero’, ‘toward zero, ‘beyond zero’ and a host of meaningless gobbledygook driven by this phenomena that is both nothing and infinity.

In 2017 Zero was made the mantra for the global safety industry and from here it just grew in its power, framing, priming and anchoring to whatever Safety wanted it to be. Then in no time Zero became a shibboleth of religious-like identity and benchmark of club membership. If one didn’t believe in zero, then one must be anti-safety.

In 2021 the global safety industry brought out a video on Zero called ‘In the Blink of an Eye’, the ‘Spirit of Zero’ and this was a clear move into ideological territory. The video is nothing less than
a religious apocalyptic seeking miracles and the impossible. Zero moved from being just a goal to becoming an all commanding ideology for an industry that moved into ‘saving lives’ and religious discourse, all promoted by engineers, behaviourists and safety organisations with no idea of Religion.

The dynamic of Zero as a persona now has astounding command over an industry that now identifies its purpose as counting injury rates, controlling hazards and policing regulation. This is the by-product of setting identity in numerics and then using the absence of a numeric as a definition of safety. Then once anchored to Zero, all kinds of delusions result, disconnected from anything to do with social connectedness, tackling risk and enabling the development of persons.

Once anchored to Zero as Safety it then becomes nearly impossible to jettison the ideology and any hope of tackling risk as a humanising way. Zero is absolute and rules absolutely.

The book finishes by offering an escape from Zero to a Methodology and Method in SPoR, that enables a realistic, positive, constructive and practical approach to tackling risk.