Safety Moment #22: Clear Your Mind of Cant

Harold Bloom Clear your mind of cant

The material provided here is extracted from the ebook 52 Process Safety Moments.


In modern English this word prejudice has, unfortunately, developed a negative tone as in, “She is prejudiced against < a group that she does not like >”. (It can occasionally connote a positive attitude — for example, when someone is prejudiced in favor of their hometown sports team.)

But the word consists simply of two parts: “Pre” + “Judge”. And, in that context, everyone is prejudiced because it is human nature to jump to conclusions, and because people choose to select the facts and observations that support those pre-determined conclusions. Even the most thoughtful and experienced process safety expert will fall into this trap.

At one facility one of the senior technicians blamed all the operating problems (and at that time on that facility there was no shortage of problems) on the instruments being used. He would say, “These instruments from Company ABC are no good — so I don’t believe what they are telling me.” What had happened is that he had worked on another facility where the instruments were indeed of poor quality and they had been manufactured by Company ABC. So he carried this prejudice with him, even though the instruments on the newer facility actually worked well.

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The well-known literary critical Harold Bloom (1930- ) in his book How to Read and Why said, “Clear your Mind of Cant”. Cant means, 'Monotonous talk filled with platitudes' or 'Hypocritically pious language'. Bloom's advice can mean simply “Clear your mind”. It is critical that those conducting incident investigations follow his advice. This is not easy.

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Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2018. All Rights Reserved.