SafeSearch has released the latest edition of its Australasian survey of occupational health and safety (OHS) salaries. A couple of years ago the recruitment company started including some qualitative questions. The latest survey generated a media release that says
“…the role of safety within an organisation is being redefined due to out-dated and ineffective strategies.”
And quoted Aaron Neilson, the company’s General Manager, saying
“Currently safety strategies are seen as a potential business burden. They are not always developed in tandem with broader business objectives, and risk being viewed as inhibitive.”
The motivation for these changes is never identified or speculated over.
Traditionally changes in the occupational health and safety (OHS) sector have originated from the existence of a hazard leading to the generation of outrage which results in legislative change. The presence of research evidence may speed up the change process. However this does not seem to be what is generating the current change in safety, according to Neilson.
“The overwhelming message from this year’s survey is that safety has to be approached differently by businesses – with 90 per cent of respondents in agreement. What does this mean? As the industry continues to develop, we expect to see more pragmatic, business-enabling strategies become the norm. Smarter safety strategies will reinforce the central business objectives of the organisation.”
What DOES this mean? Not much, if one cannot access the original question to which the “90 per cent of respondents” replied. 90% is a substantial survey number, particularly as SafeSearch says the remuneration survey included “1,334 individual roles across 168 organisations”. (It is not clear whether “respondents” = “roles”)
What these “pragmatic, business-enabling strategies” may be is also unclear. There is a risk that such strategies may involve overlaying a new paradigm to OHS that fails to consider the existing state of knowledge and workplace dynamics. The phrase above is a worrying indication of where OHS may be heading in Australia.
It becomes even more confusing when one considers that the
“overwhelming message …. is that safety has to be approached differently by businesses…”
The emphasis for safety change over the last five years or so has been on the improvement of leadership from the executive teams. One could interpret SafeSearch’s comments as implying that leadership as a change measure on OHS has failed, at least in the perception of the survey respondents.
The lack of any mention of leadership in this media release, or its companion that discusses wage growth, is perhaps the most telling element of the available survey information.
It would be impossible to achieve any organisational change on OHS issues without the support of the Chief Executive Officer or executive team. That type of leadership has been pushed by almost all stakeholders in workplace safety, including government agencies.
The SafeSearch survey data is only ever available to customers for a price that is beyond the capacity of the SafetyAtWorkBlog and we have criticised safety articles that are based on media releases rather than the original data but the presentation and interpretation of the data by SafeSearch though its media releases is odd.
It may be that the safety profession wants safety to be managed differently but who will be the catalyst and how is the aim of safety any different from current aims? It seems that commercial, marketing surveys can only go so far.
Update: 8 February 2016 – media release and overview links added