How many safety awards are too many?

On 23 March 2010, SafetyAtWorkBlog questioned the need for so many government-sanctioned OHS awards and noted that there is little overlap between wellness awards and safety awards.

On 26 March 2010, Australia’s Safety Rehabilitiation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) announced a new category in its OHS awards that will

“recognise organisations that promote health and wellbeing in the workplace–long before employees are affected by injury.”

The SRCC is the organisation that looks after the OHS of

“the federal public service, the Australian Defence Force and national companies in the Comcare scheme.”

With the addition of this new category, the SRCC finally has awards that represent the continuum of worker health and safety from prevention to incident to rehabilitation or compensation.  It could be argued that the SRCC is able to integrate these categories because it has a much smaller pool of industry from which to draw.

[Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was criticised last week for not mentioning preventative health in his plans for health sector reform.  Health Minister Nicola Roxon said, on 28 March 2010, that there will be an announcement this week on that omission.  Jon Wardle, NHMRC Research Scholar, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, said:

“Although preventive care was given its usual cursory nod, it again was used to mean early treatment rather than real prevention. Education, workplace, non-health policy and non-hospital interventions already known to be very effective internationally – both in clinical and cost-effective terms– were remarkably absent from the debate.”]

Often OHS awards nights are bloated with elaborate stagings, dance bands, and television-style production.  This certainly is spectacular but as these have evolved over the years, many of the organisers resist the inclusion of new categories because they think that they have too many award categories already.  They are unable to self-analyse and realise that the awards and the achievements are the stars of the night and that, maybe, less is more.

Certainly a split between first-tier and second-tier categories, as has occurred at the Academy Awards, would not be suitable as no one category should be seen as more important than another.

Nor should the calendar be filled with OHS awards ceremonies as this can devalue some of the events.  (Although several awards are no more than marketing exercises and deserve to be seen as such.) If the intention of the awards is to gain some prominence for the award winners through the daily media, it just is not working.  The media is confused about which award night is the more “legitimate” or prestigious, and so simply looks to the local stories.

The last week of October each year is a week that each State and the Commonwealth of Australia focuses on workplace safety instruction, events and awards.  This has also evolved for many reasons but, at least, has established itself in the calendar.

For some reason the SRCC awards ceremony is in September?!  This may be to distance itself from the State OHS awards but is indicative of the need to rationalise such awards.

The problem seems to be one of egos as each OHS regulator wants to outdo the others in either spectacle or number of attendees.  If, as said above, the motivation for the awards is truly to gain prominence for the OHS achievement of Australian companies, the current structure of these events across the country is running contrary to intentions.

An additional absurdity is that the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) is the body within which exists the SRCC, Safe Work Australia, Comcare and Seacare – all who have their own annual safety awards.  DEEWR also hosts the National Work/Life Balance awards.  Doesn’t this seem a little excessive?

One unavoidable pressure on the awards is the public influence that the ABC television show, The New Inventors, has.  When it comes to physical solutions to workplace hazards it seems that almost all nominees have already appeared on the TV show.  The program provides essential exposure to entrepreneurs, an exposure which once upon a time the awards nights could achieve.  Now by the time awards are handed out, the media, and the public, are already familiar with the device, and the awards are little more than nice-to-have endorsements.

Kevin Jones

Categories advertising, government, innovation, media, OHS, UncategorizedTags , , ,

3 thoughts on “How many safety awards are too many?”

  1. Industry Awards such as the ones you are discussing here amuse me for a very odd reason. I work as a volunteer within the South Australian workCover industry. I work very closely with some of the industry professionals for the betterment of various sections of the industry.

    I am often asked to nominate the industry professionals for various Awards, I have in fact nominated a few people because I have been very impressed by the level of committment over and above what is normally provided.

    However it is not possible for any of the industry professionals to nominate me for any of the industry Awards because of one small thing, I am a volunteer not a paid employee.

    Here in South Australia paid employment is a required guideline for eligibility for any WorkCover-SAfeWork SA Award.

    I can look at my office wall and read nomination for many non-industry Awards, but the industry I work in has no way of acknowledging me.

    I admit I swing between being amused and being annoyed. I can do nothing to alter the situation as that is up to the industry itself, all I can do is continue to do my work and question the credibility of the Awards process when it is open to industry workers to self-nominate just so they can get a nomination certificate to add to their own CV.

  2. They should hang their heads in shame given the disaster that is workplace injury – they should all be awarded the \”Jack Ass\” award and concentrate their tiny minds and the expense of the awards towards practical injury prevention.

    A full page advertisement in the National daily citing companies who are excelling in compliance of OHSW law should be plenty, what a load of rubbish, who do these people think they are, take a poll of injured workers and they will get the message loud and clear.

    Sorry Kevin, but these awards are beyond the pale given the disaster of injury prevention and awarding some company or organisation in the vague hope it might represent encouragement to others is fanciful and absurd.

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