Debate over OHS accreditation and professionalism remains messy 1

In May 2015, SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote an article about a research report that questioned the Safety Institute of Australia’s (SIA) push for certification of occupational health and safety(OHS) professionals and the accreditation of tertiary OHS courses. The article caused quite a stir and a lively dialogue. Pam Pryor of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB) provided a response to the research findings which did not seem to address, clearly, the points raised in the original article.  In a recent edition of the Journal of Health Safety and Environment, AOHSEAB’s Chair Emeritus Professor Mike Capra wrote a letter to the editor (not available online) to clarify and rebut.  The debate continues but does not necessarily progress. More…

The SIA identifies four big issues for it in 2015 8

The Safety Institute of Australia‘s (SIA) CEO David Clarke revealed his four big issues for the SIA at a recent breakfast function in Melbourne.

Policy Agenda

Clarke stated that he had instigated the creation of a National Policy Agenda for the SIA – a first for the over 60-year-old registered charity.  Clarke emphasised that the SIA needed to understand the language of government, employers and unions as it relates to safety.  The significance of the agenda was reinforced by Clarke who said that without such a strategy, the SIA would struggle for relevance.


Another priority was the certification of the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession in Australia.  Clarke admitted that this was a controversial move but sees the establishment of a “licence to operate” as vital to increasing the status of the profession. More…

A top OHS blog for 2014 13

I am very proud to receive recognition from LexisNexis again in 2014 for my work on the SafetyAtWorkBlog.  On 16 December 2014 LexisNexis Legal Newsroom Workers’ Compensation named the SafetyAtWorkBlog as one of the Top Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issues. It is a great honour for a blog that is self-funded and written in my spare time.

LexisNexis has described some of the articles as “insightful and entertaining” and reflective. One article in particular was a discussion spurred by the writings of Terry Reis and would not have been possible without his initial article.

I thank LexisNexis for this unexpected honour and feel very proud to be amongst the other honourees for 2014.  It is good to see new ones on the list and encourage all those OHS professionals who feel they have something to say, to say it.  The more voices the OHS profession has, the richer our debates and the greater our state of knowledge.

Kevin Jones


Safety Culture remains an alchemy Reply

Safety Culture is an issue that has turned up in disaster investigations, training programs intended to change attitudes, benchmarking exercises and reviews into workplace fatalities, overpriced and evangelical corporate products and as pitiful excuses for mistakes.  Yet it still remains poorly understood and poorly defined as shown by a recent article in ISHN magazine.

The magazine asked “safety and health exerts” on their opinions about Safety Culture.  Below is a sample of the comments:

Safety culture has turned into a marketing ploy.

Safety culture is part of common language and pops up all over the place – and as in beauty it’s in the eye of the beholder. More…

When did LinkedIn become the social media for brown-nosers? 12

PikachuLinkedIn is a useful adjunct to the social media of Facebook, MySpace and many other incarnations.  The professional network is a terrific idea but it has several problems – one is misuse or misunderstanding LinkedIn’s function, the other is the ridiculousness of Endorsements.  Given that LinkedIn is as popular in the OHS profession as in any other, the problems, as I see them, are worth discussing.

Linking to Strangers

According to Wikipedia:

“One purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people with whom they have some level of relationship, called Connections.”

From the user’s perspective this is the principal purpose of LinkedIn .  One is able to maintain informal contact with current and previous work colleagues.  When one’s work status changes, the linked network is advised.  As many contact details as one wants to include are placed on an individual’s profile.

There is a sense to linking peers and colleagues but this purpose, in my opinion, is seriously degraded by total strangers requesting to be linked to you. More…

Safety change through rape?! 6

At many occupational health and safety seminars and conferences in Australia there is often an OHS professional in the audience who says that jail time is the only real and effective deterrent for those breaking safety laws, usually in the context of gross negligence, reckless endangerment or industrial manslaughter.  The threat of imprisonment is indeed a deterrent for some people.

But sometimes there is an OHS professional who colours their call for imprisonment by suggesting that, once in prison, offenders should be harmed or even raped.  An example appeared on an OHS discussion forum within the last week.  The comment, on an issue of fall prevention, included this phrase:

“Only need to send a few for a short holiday with “Bubba” and some soap on a rope, to get the message across to the masses.”

This person is suggesting that the deprivation of liberty is insufficient punishment for an OHS offence and that the offender should also be raped.  What does this say about the real values of a person whose profession is based on harm minimisation and the elimination of hazards?

If, as The Guardian newspaper says, the two main principles for jail are “in order to punish wrongdoers, and to remove the danger they would otherwise pose to the wider world”, where is the justification for abuse?

The “Bubba” comment above, and many similar comments I have heard over the years, may be an extension of the cynicism that many OHS professionals seem to acquire over their time in the profession.  But it is also offensive and shows an approach to humanity that I do not share and that I believe has no place in the OHS profession, or anywhere, for that matter.  It is lazy thinking, and these thoughts come from those who advise Australian businesses!  It is a shameful situation.

Kevin Jones

Three competency elements of the safety professional 1

The October 2012 edition of The Synergist, the magazine of the  American Industrial Hygiene Association, included a frank interview with Niru Davé of Avon. Dave says that many safety and health professionals have a low level of competence.

He explains his statement through his belief that there are three competency elements in a safety professional:

  • Knowledge – staying up-to-date with the information in your field
  • People Skills – respect and approachability, and
  • Contribution – communication and involvement, participating in and generating a strategic approach.

These elements could apply to any profession and to any professional association, or industry group. Indeed these elements can be both personal and organisational. More…

Inside Australian PM’s political problems is a nugget of workplace safety 3

Prime Minister Gillard (centre) and others at Government House Canberra in March 2012

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has been under intense media pressure over an issue concerning her conduct as a lawyer around 17 years ago.

It involves legal work for unions, her personal relationship at the time with a union official who has been described as “dodgy” and of most relevance to this blog, workplace safety.

Missed in all the debate is that the workplace safety issue seems to support the assertions of many in the business and industry associations that OHS is frequently used by trade unions as an excuse for action in other areas.  These other areas are usually industrial relations but in this instance OHS was used to mask a unionist’s alleged misuse of member and industry funds. More…

Unanswered questions on Safety Institute activities 10

Earlier this year, the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) launched its OHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) project, an excellent collection of workplace safety information and research but one that has had restrictions imposed on it that seem contrary to its purpose.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has communicated repeatedly to the SIA about the BoK project and the, seemingly, related operation of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB) but, although the communications have been acknowledged, no responses have been received.  Some of the questions go to the heart of the meaning of an OHS profession and body of knowledge but also to the relationships of various organisations under, or connected to, the SIA such as the Health and Safety Professionals Association (HaSPA) and AOHSEAB.

OHS Body of Knowledge

BoK contains over 30 articles about most of the major workplace safety issues of modern times.  These have been produced by some of the most prominent OHS researchers in Australia.  But it can only be read on a computer screen and the PDF files have a security level that forbids any cutting and pasting.  Why would this important safety information be any different to guidance and data that OHS regulators provide for fair use?  The SIA has never provided a reason for this peculiar approach to spreading OHS knowledge.

The SIA professes the organisation to be about the following:

“We are committed to creating a profession that can deliver the highest standards of OHS and we do this through the engagement of our individual members, corporate and strategic partners, governing bodies and key profession stakeholders.

Through the SIA, individuals have access to qualified timely advice into public policy and regulation, research and development to advance OHS knowledge and guidance. We have developed a body of knowledge to set health and safety standards, procedures and practices to be adopted on a national basis across the profession.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog posed the following questions to the appropriate contact person, Pam Pryor, Registrar, of the  Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board  in early May 2012.  The AOHSEAB issued its first ever newsletter on 5 July 2012. (Hyperlinks have been added) More…

Australia’s safety education arrangements need clarity 12

On 18 June 2012, the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) distributed two media announcements on behalf of the Australian OH&S Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB). One announcement states that RMIT University

“…was first cab off the rank as part of a pilot program for the accreditation of OHS professional education programs”.

That announcement continues to say that

“As universities progress through the accreditation process employers and recruiters will have confidence that OHS professional education programs adequately prepare graduates to enter the workplace as an entry-level OHS professional and potential students will have a point of reference when selecting a program of study.”

This sounds very positive but who is this accreditation board? The Board’s website lists the Board’s Members and states its purpose as

“accredit[ing] OHS professional education programs that meet the accreditation criteria and holders of accredited qualifications are then deemed to meet the knowledge requirement for certification as generalist OHS professionals.”

So the Board provides some additional credibility to OHS professional education programs through accreditation. Can OHS courses exist without this accreditation? Certainly. The media release says that universities are “lining up” but only Latrobe University is in the accreditation process at the moment.

The state of tertiary OHS education in Australia is confusing. Some universities are promoting OHS courses while academics at other universities (and the SIA) are bemoaning the closure of OHS courses.* More…