As 2016 comes to a close, I have dipped into the statistics and found the two SafetyAtWorkBlog articles that had the highest readership in 2016 were articles discussing the thoughts of Michael Tooma and Andrew Hopkins. Both of the articles were challenging – one of the existence or relevance of safety culture and the other about how occupational health and safety (OHS) is desperate for a change and struggling to start that change.
The statistics should not be surprising as both Tooma and Hopkins have a high recognition rate in the Australian OHS field and both have and international context – Hopkins through his analysis of industrial disasters and Tooma through his “safety differently” world tour.
The highest statistic by far though for the SafetyAtWorkBlog is for its homepage and archives. It seems that if you keep writing long enough on the Internet, you become part of that body of knowledge, even without writing about Beyoncé or Michael Jackson or cat videos. Recently an internet search turned up various reference and footnotes about the SafetyAtWorkBlog in journal articles. This is comforting even if some of the journals were those that you pay to be published in.
These references, though, are not for research as SafetyAtWorkBlog is not in that area. They mention the interpretation of research and discuss the OHS professional’s perspective which reinforces the fact that OHS has not really had a voice of its own. Safety research has been produced and then left hanging in the breeze with the hope that someone somewhere will apply it. This is as productive as fishing without bait.
I read this research and try to make some sense of it or try to relate it to a practical application or a trend. Being an OHS consultant allows me to try some of these new things in the real world which shows me how new safety thoughts and approaches are received by employers and workers. This helps enormously in understanding what research is “pure” and what can be applied.
Many of the SafetyAtWorkBlog articles are not about research but often reactions to newspaper articles or new government publications. It is important that the information in these reports is discussed and contested. The difficulty with newspaper articles is that they are edited to a particular perspective and only the newsworthy quotes are chosen which may misrepresent the story’s origin. Government reports are easier to interpret but one must always consider the politics behind the reports.
The SafetyAtWorkBlog output was down in the second half of 2016 as I had a six month contract with a company which ate up a lot of time. This may recur in 2017 but the SafetyAtWorkBlog will continue.
At the moment the blog site is being redesigned to allow for subscriptions for some of the blog articles. This is unlikely to provide a living wage but should offset some of the costs. We’ll see how that goes.
One of the 2016 articles that has had a consistent readership throughout the year has been one that pointed out the hypocrisy that many businesses and employers have about OHS. Hypocrisy is a running theme through OHS and should be more openly discussed.
Safety Advice for 2017
Here are two pieces of advice for business owners, entrepreneurs and start-ups for 2017:
Don’t say it, if you don’t mean it or if you haven’t thought it through.
Don’t say “safety is our number one priority” unless you are prepared to follow through with all that is behind that statement.
Think about what you say, before you say it.
Most business owners do not understand what OHS is or have considered safety risks sufficiently in building their business. They do not understand the potential safety impacts on what they want to do. If safety had been considered at the concept stage of the business, the business would be very different, the production methods would be different and the business case would be different. Most business frustration with OHS comes because safety was missed or downplayed in the business planning and now OHS is disrupting the business and reducing the projected profits. Well, whose fault is that? The person who is trying to help and retrofit safety or the person who did not think hard enough about safety at the start?
And one piece of advice for myself and OHS professionals – Try to understand business motivations as much as we understand safety. The gap needs to be narrower.