The Safety Institute of Australia‘s (SIA) CEO David Clarke revealed his four big issues for the SIA at a recent breakfast function in Melbourne.
Clarke stated that he had instigated the creation of a National Policy Agenda for the SIA – a first for the over 60-year-old registered charity. Clarke emphasised that the SIA needed to understand the language of government, employers and unions as it relates to safety. The significance of the agenda was reinforced by Clarke who said that without such a strategy, the SIA would struggle for relevance.
Another priority was the certification of the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession in Australia. Clarke admitted that this was a controversial move but sees the establishment of a “licence to operate” as vital to increasing the status of the profession. SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote about the certification process, as it stood, last year and more on the issue is available at the SIA website.
The SIA will be redesigning its events process and strategy to emphasise the importance of State branches, networking events and discussion groups. A major plank will be to be more involved with the development and operation of conferences. The significance of SIA conferences has declined markedly over the last five years and may be facing some competition in the area if, as rumoured, the NSCA Foundation resurrects the FutureSafe conferences (last attempted in 2004).
In relation to conferences, the SIA’s records show that the conference in the 2013/14 financial year raised only $189,953, less than half of the previous year ($588,256). The records also show that these events are running at a loss. Perhaps OHS conferences are not the cash cows that some have been in the past.
[Edit/Update 26/2/15, I have been advised that the NSCA Foundation is the new name of the National Safety Council of Australia since Wesfarmers purchased the NSCA training and services “brand”. The member services, the magazine, events and any conferences are the responsibility of the NSCA Foundation. The Foundation has advised that it cannot access any funds from Wesfarmers as the Foundation is not related to Wesfarmers (even though the Charities register listing of NSCA Foundation includes a financial statement from Wesfarmers, with an explanatory of the Foundation’s “creation”). NSCA Foundation members are able to access any of the NSCA (Wesfarmers) services or products at discounted rates. So a dotted line, perhaps a legacy dotted line, remains.]
SIA Endorsement of Training
SIA’s David Clarke’s last big issue for 2015 was his statement that vocational training courses will be endorsed by the SIA. This seems a remarkable move given that for many years some of the executives in the SIA have displayed what some have taken as a disdain for the vocational education sector by focussing almost entirely on the tertiary education sector.
Clark says that he has been told that there is a massive problem with the quality of OHS training in Australia both in the vocational and private sector. He denied that the endorsement process is an empire-building or money-making exercise. But what does not seem to have been considered is whether the endorsement of courses by the SIA is the best way to address this “massive problem”.
Concerns over the broad vocational training sector have existed for some time but whether any analysis of the OHS/WHS sector has been undertaken is unclear. The SIA is an advocate of evidence-based decision- and policy-making and may need to provide more evidence than just anecdotes to justify the endorsement program. It can also be argued that the SIA would have a greater effect on the sector by participating in this governmental process rather than adding another level of complexity.
It is also unlikely that, given the attitude of the SIA to vocational and private training in the past, any training organisation or body would even open the door to a discussion with them. It is hard to see how this initiative provides benefits to the SIA members.
Perhaps the best that can be said about the Safety Institute of Australia is that it continues to try. The decline in finances and status over the last few years has been largely of its own making through ridiculous infighting, law suits, accusations of financial fraud, ethics hearings, and member suspensions. It has restructured its operations and its reporting methods but, largely, members have seen no positive change.
At the moment, the SIA’s health problems are in remission but the cure still seems far away. Many of the current changes suggested by David Clarke have potential but whether they are enough to withstand the changing landscape of the OHS profession might be beyond the SIA.
Kevin Jones has been a Fellow of the SIA for many years.