Ian Dury was an English singer-songwriter and actor who rose to fame during the late 1970s, during the punk and new wave era of rock music. He was the lead singer of Ian Dury and the Blockheads and before that of Kilburn and the High Roads. One of his most iconic songs was entitled ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll’, which included the lyrics ‘Sex and drugs and rock and roll, are very good indeed

Although banned by the BBC (which undoubtedly helped sales) for being deemed to encourage excess, Dury maintained that the song was trying to suggest that there was more to life than a 9-to-5 existence. Indeed, as a species (or any species in fact), we have thrived because our ancestors were ‘good’ at violence and sex. Our brains have evolved to reward anticipation of sex and violence with dopamine so that we become associatively disinhibited.

Consequently, we tend to think rather a lot about sex and violence.

According to an article published in the Journal of Sex Research (yes, really!), the average person thinks 25 to 30 times per day. How many times a day do you think about Process Safety?

And as for violence, according to Sami Yenigun in his 2013 article for NPR:

Violence sells games. The most popular video game franchise is Call of Duty, a war game where killing is the goal. There are more than 40 million copies of Call of Duty in the U.S’. He quotes Iowa State University professor Douglas Gentile, who studies the effects of violent video games on children, who says violent games tap into a primal instinct.

"There are two things that force us to pay attention," Gentile says. "One is violence; the other is sex. Whenever either of those are present in our environment, they have survival value for us."

Gentile explains that there is a very basic reason that a lot of people think violent games are more exciting than say, Tetris.

"These gamers do have an adrenaline rush, and it's noradrenaline and it's testosterone, and it's cortisol — these are the so-called stress hormones," Gentile says. "That's exactly the same cocktail of hormones you drop into your bloodstream if I punched you."

Getting punched in real life? Not fun.

"But when you know you're safe, having that really heightened sense of stress can be fun," Gentile says.’

Can we apply these insights to the rather staid world of Process Safety? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly worth investigating. Taking sex first, can we learn anything from safety communication in other relevant industries? One example to consider is Air New Zealand In Flight safety videos. A formal but important and legally required demonstration, which is often ignored by passengers. Air NZ’s solution was to commission several irreverent videos, one of which featured several models who featured on Sports Illustrated Calendar.

air NZ safety


Making up the top ten with seven stars for safety and in- flight product are in alphabetical order: Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Eva Air, Royal Jordanian, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. This puts Air New Zealand in the upper 97 percentile for safety in its sector.

Correlation or Causation?

As for violence, sadly it is main reason for Process Safety. Although Hazardous Process incident and fatality numbers have been in decline in recent decades, is it a coincidence that there always seems to be a flurry of Social Media posts following such incidents, especially if there is a video recording to disseminate.

Perhaps we could harness this glee in a positive way by generating and promoting animations of Process incidents which have been prevented by the timely intervention of operators. One of the contributory causes (released gases ignition) of the Texas City disaster (Refinery explosion 2005 leading to 15 fatalities) may have been an idling truck which was swiftly and understandably abandoned by its driver.

truck on site

If, however, instead of fleeing, he had bravely driven the truck away, the disaster may have been prevented. In this case, an animation, similar to that produced by the US Chemical Safety Board, could have been produced to both acknowledge and bravery of the driver and dramatically increase interest and awareness of Process Safety to other stakeholders.


So perhaps if we can positively harness the satisfaction we all derive from sex and violence in the name of Process Safety, we can make it feel ‘very good indeed’