Dr Marilyn Hubner has been a steady presence in Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) field. I had the pleasure of spending some time with, and interviewing, her at the World OHS Congress in Singapore a few years ago. Her training work keeps her connected with workers and business owners away from workplace, usually, and allows for a good level of perception on the reality of OHS.
Just want to say first up, that humanising OHS is interesting. Some people think safety is all about humanising, but many others often find themselves thinking numbers and compliance a bit too much. I’m not your typical safety person. Most of my work is training related. Either writing programs, delivering training or evaluating and improving training programs. Many will see this as outside the safety profession, but I tend to think of myself and my services as a contractor to the profession as well as to organisations.
How did you get into Health & Safety?
I got into safety in a very common way, through the HSR way. While working as an educator I was put forward to be the HSR, after the first day of the 5 day training, I knew that this was the way that I could (as everyone wants) ‘save the world’. After the course I enrolled in the Cert IV, then the Diploma of OHS and then looked for work. With my defence force and adult education background, safety training and consulting came naturally.
What drives you?
I love deadlines, they always seem to get me moving, but on a larger scale there have been two things throughout my life that keeps me going and drives me through the bad times. The first is personal and has to do with being able to have a better life than my parents, but the second, is what the Army taught/gave me – self-respect through discipline in the pursuit of helping and protecting people. “Essentially saving the world” and since ASIO didn’t want me, I thought that education was the next best thing. So really, I’m driven by the education of others, and I feel it’s my calling to help others gain different perspectives on the way of the safety world.
What helps you slow down?
Nothing better than time at the beach, a nice bottle of red and a jigsaw. Used to be SCUBA diving was the only thing that made me stop … and breath…. But some medical issues are preventing me from diving like I want.
Any OHS Regrets?
Two regrets – One – I wish that I found this profession earlier than I did, but then again, the experiences I had in other industries, and in life, is what makes me a better educator and consultant.
Two – I wish that I had done a Masters in OHS and not Adult Education as then I would have gone onto a PhD that was directly OHS related, as opposed to what I did. I found that my PhD was not ‘safety enough’ for the safety profession and not ‘education ‘enough for the education profession. Made it difficult for researching, and made it difficult to find supervisors and assessors, and still makes it difficult in my mind as to what to do with the findings.
So, I was and always will be a outliner…..
Favourite fiction writer?
Christian Jacq – I love Egyptian history and he is a historian that writes fiction stories around real events. Mind you I haven’t read one of his books since I finished my PhD. I find it too difficult to relax while reading fiction now… (I always feel like I should be reading something work related). Hopefully soon I will get back to it. I just need the Internet to fail for a few days for me to switch off first and then back to a good book.
What is one OHS trend you are watching keenly?
In Australia, I think it has to be the drive to make the ‘profession’ more professional through a better certification system that meets the needs of employers, unions and individuals. Globally, I think that the publication of global standards is a major step forward in the practical management of safety. If implemented and expanded I think consistent methods for managing risk in all countries will make a safer world. Not sure if it is really a movement, but then again…..
Person/s who you watch and take inspiration from in OHS that you think will have an increasing impact in the sector.
Close to home, Sarah Cuscadden at Probuild really inspires me. She is always thinking of different ways to do things and sees the world in different way than many in the Construction Industry. More globally, Tim Page-Bottorff is an ex-marine and now working at Safe Start out of the US. He is about the most safety passionate person I have ever met, and his presence on the stage (or in a classroom, or on a worksite) is amazing. He makes you want to act safer. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWerEzC09MA )
Must be something they teach us in the defence force). But then also there is a raft of people (with no names or faces) that continue to inspire me. As a trainer and consultant, I get to spend most of my time in other people’s work areas, and I see people every day thinking, acting and promoting safety and that’s the thing that inspires me the most.
What are you most excited about in our sector?
Im really excited about the Australian Institute of Health and Safety and its moves towards an improved certification system for people like myself that have vocational safety qualifications. I know that there is a lot of debate in Australia about certification, some for and some against. I have for a long time fought against certification thinking that as a business owner and a PhD graduate that I didn’t need it, or any professional organisation saying I was a professional or practitioner. However, as my work takes me global and I see the benefits for individuals and organisations having certified safety specialists, I have changed my tune and think that we all need to get excited about it.
What’s your favourite quote?
Hmm that’s a hard one…
“I have a dream” comes to mind but really – do you know Maslow’s hierarchy of needs…. Abraham Maslow once said – “you will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety” I do both all the time. J
Biggest issue facing the OHS profession?
Dealing with the fast changes to technology, and the changing face of the way we work…. I think this current health crisis is showing that some of us can work productively in places outside the traditional workplace, and once we can go back to work, who knows if people will want to, so therefore safety people will need to manage safety in multiple places.
What do you wish you had understood about OHS sooner?
Why we use SWMS?? Actually, does anyone know?
No really – Im constantly understanding more and more about OHS, and how other people see and perceive it. As I said earlier, I wish I had come to the profession a lot earlier and then I would understand a whole lot more issues now. I wish I had more time to spend reading blogs, journal articles, attending seminars and learning, but the need to pay bills does stop me.
What would you like to see to improve collaboration in OHS?
Oh, this is a bit of a bug bear to me. People (and by this, I mean safety people, businesspeople and workers) all need to talk more. On small scales within workplaces, and larger scales between countries. It annoys me so much that people don’t talk to others about risk and controlling it. I don’t know how many times I have been in workplaces on inspection visits and I see different (sometimes better, sometimes worse) methods for doing things. I understand about privacy and competition, but safety is about saving lives, and if you have a way to do that, or a system that works, then you should be telling people, and we all should be looking and listening.
What should you have been doing whilst you answered this?
Writing a unit of competency on Building a Respectful Workplace for the University of Frederickton.