Look for evidence in online OHS content

In occupational health and safety, as with any profession, it is useful to ask for evidence. When on a work site, it is important to always ask “why?” Why do you do your work task that way? Why are you not wearing the PPE that everyone else is wearing? Why are you working such late hours?

But in the publishing and internet world it is equally important to ask for evidence from safety commentators. The SafetyAtWorkBlog has an editorial policy and practice of linking back to original material, articles or court cases, if they are available online, or providing some other references so that readers can source the original material, the evidence on which an article is based or a comment made. This type of editorial policy and practice is missing from many blogs leading, as a result, to the perception of a lack of authority. The latest example of this is the 30 Days of OHS campaign by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).

The 30 Days of OHS campaign is a new strategy for the SIA and it should be applauded for trying something new.  But the initial editorial practice for the early campaign contributions is shaky. For instance, the 12 October 2011 article on resilience says

“..in a recent survey….” and

“..research has clearly shown…”

The author, Rhett Morris, has told SafetyAtWorkBlog that the survey mentioned was undertaken for a client. (Morris has provided a copy of the survey which is available HERE).  When contacted by SafetyAtWorkBlog Morris had not been advised that the article had been accepted for the campaign let alone it being online.  He also stressed that the article is a 400-word extract from a much longer article, a fact that the SIA should have included in order to provide a better context for the article.  There is clearly more dialogue required between the SIA and contributors.Similarly Christian Sylvestre’s article on human error says

“..recent research shows that over 95% of acute injuries for most people are caused by specific unintentional and habitual patterns of human behaviour…”

SafetyAtWorkBlog contacted Christian Sylvestre today who explained that the “recent research” is not a research report or study, as we assumed, but the findings and feedback that he and his company, SafeStart, have received from clients.

The SIA should be requesting links to, or access to, any research referenced in the 30 Days of OHS contributions so that readers can verify the writer’s interpretation in order to avoid, potentially, taking action on inadequate evidence.

The SIA is in the process of building a “core body of knowledge’ and it has recently provided its members access to the EBSCO research database in order to encourage members to make better decisions by have these being evidence-based.  The organisational aim of evidence-based decision making provides a stark contrast to evidence not being sought for its first major online campaign under its new corporate structure and new CEO.

With the internet so full of inaccurate information, conspiracy theories and videos of cats playing pianos, it is important to establish a legitimacy and an authority in blog articles and posts involving workplace health and safety.  In the lead up to Safe Work Australia Week, the safety profession could do better.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories Blog, business, campaign, evidence, media, OHS, research, safety, UncategorizedTags , ,

4 thoughts on “Look for evidence in online OHS content”

  1. Hi Kevin,

    Good article which appears to remain relevant. Above in 2011 you followed-up an SIA promotion seeking evidence for this claim:

    “..recent research shows that over 95% of acute injuries for most people are caused by specific unintentional and habitual patterns of human behaviour…”

    There did not appear to be any evidence thus supporting the theme of your article.

    This quote appeared in an SIA program today (28 August 2013).

    \”the latest neuroscience has revealed that more than 95% of our actions are “subconscious”.\”

    http://www.thesafetyshow.com.au/visitor/speaker-exhibitor-interviews/cristian-sylvestre

    While today\’s SIA promotion is not the same as the 2011 version it bears a striking resemblance. It appears little has changed.

  2. and the following from thier website \”safe start\”

    \”More than 2 million people have been trained in SafeStart at more than 2000 organisations (7000 sites) in over 40 countries.\”
    And
    “It has enabled organisations to achieve a 60 to 90% reduction in workplace incidents within 6-12 months of its implementation”
    http://www.safestart.com.au/index.html 15th October 2011

    Now I\’d like to see the peer reviewed empirical evidence to support this claim!

    1. Hugh, I am not overly concerned about the lack of peer review as I know of a great deal of good useful information that has not gone through the academic process. One of my concerns was that the SIA\’s involvement with the 30 Days of OHS site implies a level of authority that is not reflected in a couple of the contributions.
      I believe that if the SIA or webmaster had established more of an editorial relationship with the contributors, rather than simply asking for 400 words to be sent in, then the site and its articles would have more authority and the site would be able to establish an informational legacy. At the moment the site risks becoming a marketing or branding exercise and i don\’t think that was what was intended.

  3. A breath of fresh air to dispel the rancid odour of the SIA\’s decaying management ethos.

    Perhaps the excuse will be \”it\’s all done by volunteers\”.

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