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.