The annual Safe Work Australia month starts today. The promotion of this month has fluctuated wildly over the last decade. Sometimes there are physical launches with interesting speakers, sometimes balloons and merchandise, other times the national OHS authority has left most of the activity to the States. In 2014, Safe Work Australia has jumped into internet videos, online presentations and webinars each day of the month of October (the full schedule is available HERE). This initiative is to be supported but it has not been tried before in Australia and its success is not guaranteed.
As expected the first couple of videos are polite launches of the strategy with statements from Ministers and CEOs. The potential for valuable content is after the initial launch but this value is debatable. It is unclear who the target audience is. If the seminar series is for OHS newbies, a restatement of legislative OHS obligations is of little interest to experienced safety managers and professionals.
It is unlikely that anything controversial will be said except perhaps in the live panel discussion scheduled for October 3. Most of the scheduled speakers are known OHS academics or professionals and given the commitment to tripartite consultation that there is only one speaker for the entire month from the trade union movement (Kim Sattler of UnionsACT on October 30) seems odd.
The success of this initiative can be measured in several ways – one can count the number of viewers, tweets and other social media measures. But the success has probably already been achieved by the fact that a government authority has committed to a heavy schedule (and probably substantial cost) of new online content.
It is understand that Safe Work Australia intends to keep this content for some time and a library is an excellent idea. But even if the videos disappear, the transcripts are available for download.
Safe Work Australia and its annual Safe Work Australia month has often struggled to gain the prominence that it, in some ways, deserves, due to the strength and resources of the State-based OHS regulators and Comcare. Safe Work Australia cannot enforce, only inform and it seems that it has realised that this is not a limitation but a possible advantage. Safe Work Australia can be a major contributor to, and guide for, Australia’s state of knowledge on OHS matters. Rather than relying on the occasional publication or consultative workshops, Safe Work Australia has gambled on this online strategy.