OHS exhibitions in Australia

Australia seems to have more OHS conference now than ever before.  The growth in annual conferences seems odd in a country with such a small comparative population but perhaps because the population is spread so much and there is such a strong resource sector, perhaps it is understandable.

SafetyAtWorkBlog put some questions about the phenomenon to Marie Kinsella, the Managing Director of Australian Exhibitions & Conferences, a major provider of these conferences and trade exhibitions in Australia.  Some of her responses are below.

Has the recent global finance crisis made it more difficult for AEC to attract stallholders?

“The shows’ exhibitors have not been immune from the GFC, particularly those with international head offices, and some regulars were forced to reduce the size of their stands. In an encouraging sign for the safety industry, however, we have had to turn away exhibitors in some categories and this year’s Safety In Action and Melbourne Materials Handling shows will be just as big as in previous years, with many exhibitors debuting this year.”

Given that the Safety In Action trade show is about safety, who sets and verifies the safety credentials and qualifications of those who build the stands in the exhibition space?

“The industry’s association – Exhibition & Events Association of Australia has a Contractor Management Programme that all organisers & suppliers must comply with. [links added]

AEC has a standard OHS policy & procedure that require all successfully tender applicant suppliers to meet before their services are engaged – this qualifies the suppliers for 1 year and is reassessed each year.

The major venues (MCEC, SCEC, BCEC, PCEC) play a large part in setting regulations relating to OHS as well.”

If AEC had unlimited funds what feature or innovation would AEC love to include in Safety In Action Trade Show?

“A huge demonstration linking all the exhibitors in a massive simulated worksite. The logistics would be mind-boggling!”

The number of OHS exhibitions run in Australia each year has increased substantially, and in size. Has this expansion similarly expanded the number of OHS exhibitors or has the duplication cannibalised the sector?

“We did ask ourselves that question before establishing the Queensland and WA Safety Shows but, ultimately, visitors from those states demanded to meet exhibitors who could provide local service.  They’re big states with big construction and mining sectors that take OHS very seriously and deserve the support of the safety industry.  Many exhibitors do participate in each show because they have a national presence but there’s also a large contingent unique to each state.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog hopes to be able to interview some of the exhibitors at the Safety In Action Trade Show about the OHS implications and innovations of their products and services during late April 2010.  Some press releases on new products available at the Safety In Action 2010 trade show are available through Firefly Marketing.

Trade shows and exhibitions seem anachronistic in this world of websites and digital promotions but it seems that safety people, at least, want to see, touch and discuss control options.  Perhaps this is part of the risk assessment process that safety professionals advocate to their clients.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories advertising, business, conference, media, OHS, safety, UncategorizedTags , ,

7 thoughts on “OHS exhibitions in Australia”

  1. A great deal of one shelf in my office is filled with various industry information guidelines from various conferences/seminars I have attended over the years.

    Some guidelines also come from project grants that did a great deal of research was done and guidelines for workplace improvment written, but the grant money was only for the research not for the implementation of the new concepts.

    Other grant money is used to do pilot programmes which again result in a research paper that again gathers a great deal of interest and then dust.

    All the while injured workers gain false hope that the research paper/project will have a positive outcome for them, only to be let down because the funding was not available to carry on the project or the interest in the project was not picked up by another industry research group.

    I feel jaded and broken at times over all the information that is available for the betterment of injured workers or the prevention of workplace injuries.
    The reason I feel jaded and broken is that what is bright and shiney at a confernence or seminar has already paid off for the research people so they have already gained, where as the very people who need this knowledge never get it, never hear off it, never benifit from it.

  2. Kevin

    I have some difficulty in determining what aspect of the OHS spectrum requires professionals and what attributes those wishing to be called an OHS professional should posess. It would seem the \”Industry\” is populated by a large volume of people and organisations vying for credibility and a position in the sun, without necessarily being focused on the reallity of every day injury prevention on the shop floor.

    I don\’t think we have a clear structure in place but I would start by seperating the two key elements and they are Pre Injury (injury prevention) and Post Injury (injury preventure failure). The prior may learn from the latter either by the experience not being repeated, with additional refinement of practical protectection and prevention methodology, or more likely, as a result of significant fines for blatant non compliance of the law.

    Obviously there will be sub specialties that will require the attention of professionals such as \”Work Place Safety Auditors\” who would be independant with appropriate professional liability protection and would be responsible for providing advice to employers on safety requirements to meet their legal obligations (similar to a more practical version of the ISO quality system). The employer would then have a starting point for compliance which would be revisited at regular intervals to determine if they have been compliant or there are issues of \”exceptions\” (injury reports). All of this type of thing allows us to exclude the unavoidable accident caused by inattention or just plain stupidity which will be found out in any subsequent audit. It also gives regulatory authorities a ready reference at surprise inspections.

    Follow up audits will continue to focus employers on a safe environment or at least help to. The question will arise, how can I afford this? well the answer to that is, if you think you can\’t, get out of the business because you are a disaster waiting to happen and the laws have not been written with you in mind and you have no right to gamble with the safety, health and welfare of your employees. There are no grey areas it is black and white.

    The professional areas I believe will relate to those of coordination of services of specialist support groups or individuals who may range from medical to engineering, who are professionals in their own disciplines but not in the discipline of OHSW as a seperate entity. OHSW is a discipline of it\’s own and should not be subservient to any other entity within the employment spectrum it most definitely should not be subservient to HR and should be represented at senior management level in every organisation no matter how small, given the penalties that apply to senior management for serious transgressions of OHSW.

    These are just a few of my thoughts and could be substantially expanded upon, but I will leave that for another time, for what it is worth.

    Cheers
    Tony

    PS: Kevin, I don\’t think I can be as generous as you in respect of Unions, if ever there was a time where unions need to have their presence felt on the shop floor it is now, for safety sake alone. Good luck at the rally I like many others look forward to seeing some media coverage.

  3. I agree with Rosemary, I believe the larger number of conferences and exhibitions are somewhat self seeking and self serving with profit motives for the conference convener and exhibitors.

    The focus of shop floor safety in practical terms in compliance with very specific law is not a priority but lip service by the majority is. I suppose it is like the ISO quality systems which have been all the rage, where compliance is more related to documentation compliance than any practical quality outcome. Don\’t get me wrong there are exceptions but unfortunately they are significantly in the minority.

    There is nothing wrong with conferences and exhibitions provided they are run by credible organizations such as the Safety Institute of Australia, maybe coupled with an exhibitors representative body and the priority being compliance with obligations to safety law at all times. Conferences should confine themselves to practical accident and adverse health issue prevention and management systems that aid prevention, education is part of that but not exclusively a priority, there has been far too much reliance on safety education as a stand alone solution because it is the easiest and cheapest to deliver with a stunning lack of success.

    I will say it again and continue to state it, compliance on the shop floor with substantial on the spot penalties for non compliance, without warnings or opportunities to redress, will focus employers attention very rapidly indeed and the number of work place accidents will diminish rapidly. Do this and the opportunity for safety equipment and service suppliers escalates exponentially.

    One has to wonder where the Unions are in all of this, dwindling membership and it would seem lack of interest in real front line issues for their membership is the order of the day. Maybe they have other agendas more aligned to self interest???

    I like Ken\’s comments about the relevance of the internet as a very valuable resource and I am always looking for interesting comment, however, and there is always one of those, it is still a lot of verbiage not necessarily related to practical outcomes. The issues surrounding the practical aspects of providing a safe working environment and compliance with OH&S law by the hundreds of thousands of small business employers in Australia is not being met. Comprehensive law has been in place for over two decades so everyone knows they must comply, so why aren\’t they? Answer that one question and hello! we have a substantial part of the answer.

    OH&S has become an industry in its own right in much the same way that Human Resources grew out of the humble employment officers role and there are many interpretations of the value proposition there.

    I value the opportunity to put my point of view and I would like to know how many others agree or disagree with my thoughts.

    Cheers
    Tony

    1. Tony

      I think your description of the OHS as \”an industry\” is apt. Would you describe this also as a profession?

      The unions value OHS but only as part of the big scheme of \”wages and conditions\”. They are constantly balancing priorities. I have said publicly that the unions have greater influence than their numbers would indicate but that dismisses their historical importance. There is an OHS/workers\’ comp. protest rally in Melbourne on Tuesday which I hope to attend. Let\’s see what public statements the union movement makes then.

      Kevin

  4. I guess my views are tainted by the fact that I deal every day with the broken bodies and dreams of injured workers who have had OHSW on the floor where they work and even though the latest industry information is available, still people are being injured and still people are dying.

  5. Pity it doesn\’t appear to translate into a largeer percentage of workers not being injured or die as a direct result of OHSW conferences.
    Seems to me that people go to conferences gather lots of interesting materials and then with the speed of light nothing changes.

    Call me a cynic but I have attended some very expensive conferences and heard the very same messages for the last 15 years.
    Injuries and workplace death and disease are still with us.

    Could it be that preaching to the converted simply does not work?

    1. Rosemary

      Conferences and trade shows have very different expectations. I used to want conferences to provide information that could be applied in practical workplace scenarios but now realise that practical solutions are more likely to be found in exhibitions. However the practical solutions are often based on the information and research presented at conferences a couple of years earlier.

      In some ways they compete, in others they complement but I share your frustrations with many OHS conferences. My point about the internet\’s impact on exhibitions could equally apply to conferences. New OHS research comes online every week and can reach thousands of people. Physical conferences are annual and reach much less. I am watching how conference organisers react to the new communication technologies.

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