What do you do when the first speaker at a safety conference makes a strong argument that occupational health and safety (OHS) activities are likely to be automated out of existence within twenty years? Dr Drew Rae opened the SIA Safety Convention with just such a statement. This was reinforced by Andrew Harris of Laing O’Rourke who provided video evidence of an artificial intelligence that could identify that a worker was not wearing the required personal protective equipment.
The Convention’s theme is disruption as this is one of the current business buzzwords and safety people think disruption is a positive experience. But it is possible that disruption will erode the OHS profession IF that profession continues handling its knowledge and supporting its members in the same way.
At the Eric Wigglesworth Memorial Lecture on 5 September, Dr David Borys further disrupted the OHS profession by questioning its knowledge base and although an academic himself and a major participant in the Safety Institute of Australia’s Body of Knowledge, advocated a Body of Evidence rather than a Body of Knowledge. What this also did was cut across the core structure of the SIA which is wrapped around academic education. Borys was very disruptive in a polite way.
The first session of this conference confirms the understanding that the best safety thinking comes from outside the safety profession. The future of the safety profession will come from how the safety profession responds to change and several speakers have mentioned extinction.
It’s a good start to this conference.