Why faith matters for managing risk?

Take the first step in faith


Do not look at the full staircase.


Just take the first step.


Martin Luther King Jr.


Returning home from the UK Chamber of Shipping Conference where I met some old friends and had a wonderful evening and some stimulating conversations about #safetyculture.


As I reflected on my way back home, this beautiful semiotic at the Aberdeen airport caught my attention (again).



Why take the first step in faith?

Here is a personal story. I learned early in life as a young seafarer how to watch out for myself and my mates on ship. On big container ships arriving just-in-time in port, the shore gangs would often throw heavy twist locks down on deck without thinking there could be someone walking underneath. As seafarers, we would whistle and shout as we walked down the isles to mark our presence on deck and protect us from those dropped objects falling on our head. Yes, we conducted risk assessment, but we never trusted paperwork and neither did we trust our helmets.


What has this to do with taking the next step in faith? What is its relevance to Safety Culture? Faith is absurd, Faith is non-rational and knowing that the next step forward is in absurdity and not science makes me conscious, reflective, and deliberate about my actions and decisions. It is not the AI or it’s predictive prowess, the helmet or some fail-safe design that saves me, it is my Faith.


Is Faith the same as trust? Not really. Faith is Trust minus Doubt. When you sign off that job hazard analysis, permit to work, or risk assessment, you do not trust the paperwork; you learn to doubt it. It is the doubt of what remains to be tackled in an uncertain world that saves you, not the certainty of checks that you have completed on that sheet.


Look around for the symbols and artefacts of Safety Culture and all that you see is hierarchies, pyramids, measurements, objectivity, telling and yelling signs – all centred at mindlessness, fear, authority, objectivity, and the obsession with scientism to control what lies ahead. No questions asked, no engagement, no conversations – just do what you are told!!


I see the staircase is wet. I will take the next step in Faith. What would you do?



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