Safety as an “old boy’s club”

One of the biggest handicaps modern professional organisations have is that many of them are “old boys’ clubs”.  Often this is not the fault of the executive committees or boards as this is the way in which professional organisations and associations, in particular, have evolved.

However, it is difficult to understand why committees allow the clique, the elites, the dinosaurs, to persist.  Some are in denial or are blind to the fact that all the members are of a similar age, background and attitude.  Others recognise the handicap but don’t know what to do.  The worst are those who impose racial or gender quotas without considering the broader impact on the association of this approach.

Organisations need to undertake a staged restructure of all elements of administration, promotion and operation to ensure that there is a future for, what in most cases are, worthy institutions.

What is very surprising is that, often, these organisations have the skills to achieve a positive outcome as the membership provides this sort of advice to clients.  The skills are there when providing a service but are absent when within their own organisation.

The inability to change is a trait we see in the most Luddite of professional associations.  The un-willingness to change is a trait that it is hard to forgive.
The reality is occupational health and safety is changing radically around the world with new hazards, new control measures, new political demands, new agenda and new health initiatives.  Few professional associations are managing to keep up; some are looking in the opposite direction.

Categories business, health, OHS, safety, UncategorizedTags ,

2 thoughts on “Safety as an “old boy’s club””

  1. Col

    Thanks for the comment but I need to stress that my comments are not directed at any particular OHS organisation. There are (sadly) common traits in many safety-related groups and organisations.

    I agree with the plain speaking and am waiting for the “Idiot’s Guide to Workplace Safety” to come out. I suspect, though, that it will contain mainly information such as “don’t stick your hand in there” and “no shortcuts”.

    I would agree that OHS needs a makeover. We should start by calling radio stations every time there is a “stupid OHS story” that is not really about OHS. In my experieicne these stories originate from poorly understood OHS or from someone using OHS as a quick excuse to dismiss a concern, similarly to when people say “whatever” instead of apologising for getting something wrong.

  2. Can’t say I know whether our association has any “dinosaurs” or not. But I totally support the idea that every professional association needs to encourage inclusiveness and embrace change.

    I think OH&S is one of those areas that should be on the cutting edge (and if necessary, the bleeding edge) of this. No doubt there are big challenges for the SIA.

    I would like to see action on dealing with what I think is a worrying place OH&S has got itself into. That thing of seeing people’s eyes glaze over when work safety gets raised. I get the impression that people are so “over” safety stuff that it’s almost like safety talk is tantamount to talking about tax.

    It maybe just the way we have communicated safety information in the past. There’s evidence that things are changing, but I reckon it’s fair enough to say that the ordinary punter (bosses and workers) aren’t really connecting with the importance of OH&S. And there’s no reason why it should be that way. Case in point.

    I do a safety newsletter for a biggish safety equipment client. I was given carte blanche on style of language and a fairly free hand on content. The result has been that the client’s punters seem to love it. Each edition collects a handful of very complimentary letters back to the company. The general theme in the fan mail is that they love seeing OH&S information being presented simply. Now I haven’t mentioned this to “big note” meself.

    The fact of the matter is that the style I use for that newsletter (covering otherwise pretty dry topics like what is happening around the Oz jurisdictions) is to use the language OH&S practitioners use amongst themselves.

    When we talk together, and I mean during casual conversation, we don’t over-elaborate, we don’t feel a need to add disclaimers and all that “but on the other hand” stuff. From my experience we talk to one another just like “normal” people: we try and stick to the point, concentrate on the important info and do our best to keep it simple. Have a look at some expensive safety manuals and all that commonsense communication stuff seems to evaporate.

    When you call for the need to embrace change Kevin, my vote would be for the SIA to right at the frontline in making OH&S accessible and easy to understand. I reckon there’s a lot of repair work needed.

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