Is Safety Hocus Pocus?

When I was eight years old, I attended a magic show. The magician transformed his handkerchief into doves, sawed his assistant in half and used weird words like “hocus pocus.”

In EHS we say weird words too. We use acronyms such as UST, TWA, TLV, TMS, STS, and STEL. We repeat words like incident (and cringe when others use “accident”), residual risk, and anthropometric.

Prior to the invention of the printing press in 1439, literacy was uncommon. Churchgoers in the Middle Ages listened to readings in Latin, unable to read or fully understand the texts. While passing out sacred bread and wine, priests would repeat strange sounding words. In 1674, the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Tillotson, wrote, “in all probability…hocus pocus is nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus (“this is the body”), [a] ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church.”

I attended an EHS presentation last week where the majority of the audience was not in the EHS business. The speaker continually used safety-industry specific language. With each “DART” and “EMR”, audience members squinted, frowned, and eventually gave up trying to translate. In the end, it was a little too much “hocus pocus.”

How much hocus pocus is in your language?

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