Phenomenology and the safety professional

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In Australia, safety management is being progressed most obviously through sociology and the work of  Andrew Hopkins.  But perhaps it is possible to cut through some of the commercial  “safety culture” twaddle by looking at the work of philosophers and the concept of phenomenology.  As any modern student seems to do instead of reading the original, look to the movie.

On 20 April 2010, Australian lawyer, Andrew Douglas, channeled The Matrix in trying to challenge the thinking of the audience of OHS professionals at the Safety In Action conference.

In his conference paper, Douglas compared the positive and negative safety cultures to the blue and red pill choice that Morpheus offers Neo.   Continue reading “Phenomenology and the safety professional”

Can OHS achieve “practical wisdom”?

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Continuing SafetyAtWorkBlog’s belief that the best advice on workplace safety often comes from people outside the OHS discipline, Professor Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College was interviewed in the Australian Financial Review on 30 March 2010 (only available by subscription).  Schwartz was talking about the social and regulatory impact of the global financial crisis but his take on the obeying of, and dominance of, rules seems equally applicable in OHS.

“Schwartz says the common response to crises… to reach for more regulation.  But the problem is that these people who run these banks are smarter than any set of rules we can come up with.  So what will happen is that [the rule] will work for a while, and then people will find a way to subvert them.”

He goes on:

“I think a lot of the trouble that we have is that you’ve got these people who run institutions, the CEOs, make speeches about how ethical they are and they may even mean it, but the people who are actually making the day-to-day decisions know that unless they make their targets, they are going to lose their jobs. Continue reading “Can OHS achieve “practical wisdom”?”

OHS exhibitions in Australia

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Australia seems to have more OHS conference now than ever before.  The growth in annual conferences seems odd in a country with such a small comparative population but perhaps because the population is spread so much and there is such a strong resource sector, perhaps it is understandable.

SafetyAtWorkBlog put some questions about the phenomenon to Marie Kinsella, the Managing Director of Australian Exhibitions & Conferences, a major provider of these conferences and trade exhibitions in Australia.  Some of her responses are below.

Has the recent global finance crisis made it more difficult for AEC to attract stallholders?

“The shows’ exhibitors have not been immune from the GFC, particularly those with international head offices, Continue reading “OHS exhibitions in Australia”

What is the best OHS conference you have attended and why?

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Australia is beginning the new year’s rounds of safety conferences.  There is always a lot to criticise on OHS conferences but SafetyAtWorkBlog wants to hear about the best safety conference you have attended and what made it so good?  (Teleconference and web-based conferences will be dealt with another time.

Was it the speakers? The venue location? The comfy chairs?  The lunchtime food?  The quality of conference attendees? Or the really cool USB of conference papers included in the ID card lanyard, as happened recently in Australia?

The most interesting comment will receive two OHS-related books from the SafetyAtWorkBlog review copy library (there may be scribbles in the margins).

Kevin Jones