Printing is expensive and the internet has provided an attractive alternative and low-cost distribution network that particularly suits OHS information. The precursor to the SafetyAtWorkBlog, the Safety AT WORK magazine, was distributed as a PDF magazine only and online for years. Publishing online allows for all the printing costs to be outsourced to the subscribers or readers, or at least those who choose to print guidances, alerts, etc.
But it is reasonable to expect that during a national Workplace Safety Week, hard copies of government OHS guidances should be made available to those people who register or attend government-sponsored events, particularly if that event is a (“soft”) launch of a new guidance.
Today I attended a WorkSafe Victoria seminar where a panel of safety experts discussed government OHS requirements as they relate to procurement. The seminar was also a launch of the new WorkSafe guide Health and safety in construction procurement – A handbook for the public sector No hard copies were available in the seminar for participants. This raised the odd situation where it was possible to attend a seminar on a new guidance, listen to a WorkSafe representative talk about the guidance, listen to three panelists praise the guide but not have a copy of the guide.
The guide was released on the WorkSafe website last week but releasing something online does not promote the publication. On each chair was a postcard about the guide which included the website where a copy can be downloaded. Sitting on a postcard is a poor substitute for a hard copy of a publication that everyone on the podium is discussing.
As was said at the top of this post, printing is expensive and it seems as if WorkSafe Victoria has introduced a policy where each printing of hard copies guidances must be justified. WorkCover NSW for many years has applied a consistent policy on their guidances:
“Single copies of printed publications are available free. Multiple copies of publications are available at list price plus postage and handling.”
Most Australian regulators have a combination of these two policies and there is at least a chance to retrieve some of the printing costs.
I understand very well the economic attraction of online distribution and printing but I also understand the practicality of reading a hard copy publication, establishing a library of OHS guidance on the shelf at my desk and being able to present an “official” WorkSafe OHS guide to a client on a hazard facing that client. There is a strong degree of authority with a hard copy that is just not there with a stapled photocopy or even a copy with a spiral binding.
It was a poor show for not having copies of the document that was being launched or released at today’s seminar. At the very least, WorkSafe Victoria should advise OHS professionals, guidance users and OHS educators of this change in publications policy so that they can structure their information distribution procedures and habits to ensure a similar level of communication of the soft copies.
WorkSafe Victoria has been contacted about this issue and their response is awaited.