Andi Csontos, OHS futurist

Andi Csontos

The future of work is usually portrayed as a future dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and electronic technology, and one with which humans will struggle to cope. As other industrial sectors panic over potential job losses, it may be good news for the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession which feeds on the potential for harm. The future will still contain harm, but probably new types.

Consultation has been critical to OHS and its ability to improve health and safety, but many OHS people do not have to leave the office. There activities revolve around complicated Excel spreadsheets of intricate injury classifications and risk calculations. But OHS existed long before these technological burdens, which some would describe as dead-ends and others as the accumulation of valuable data. However, talking about safety and, more important, listening to others discussing safety is the most important tool an OHS profession has and will have in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This was reinforced recently by EY’s EHS Partner Andi Csontos (pictured above) at a seminar in Ballarat Victoria. Csontos paraphrased a recent EY discussion paper:

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Is OHS a socialist plot?

As the dominance of neoliberalism weakens around the world, people are fearful of what comes next. In some sectors, that fear includes occupational health and safety (OHS). OHS is a business cost, in the same way as every other cost of running a business, but it is often seen as an interloper, a fun-sucker, a nuisance and/or an impediment to profitability. This misinterpretation needs to be contested.

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OHS barriers and opportunities

One of the common questions I am asked, usually face-to-face rather than online curiously, is what changes I would suggest for improving occupational health and safety (OHS).  Following on from the broad perspective thesis by Dr Clare Tedestedt George, here are some of my thoughts.

Entrenched workplace cultures

Workplaces and industry sectors have established rigid norms, work practices, expectations, and a culture, that are no longer considered as safe and healthy as they were intended to be.  This has happened due to the economic demands of neoliberalism, the (fake) empowerment of the individual and after years of weakness and neglect by the OHS profession and regulators.

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Too big to change

The strong readership of the article on truck driver safety based on the research of Dr Clare George resulted in one reader remind me of Australian research from 2017 that looked at similar issues.

In 2017 Louise Thornthwaite and Sharron O’Neill published “Regulating the work health and safety of Australian road freight transport drivers: summary report“.  The authors wrote:

“Work health and safety (WHS) is a significant issue for the heavy vehicle road freight transport industry. The sector has a history of the highest fatalities and serious injury rates of any industry in Australia. While media focuses on drivers killed in road crashes, these represent only a subset of the hundreds of drivers killed or permanently disabled, and thousands more injured, in and around trucks each and every year.

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The Shock of the New

The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) has recently published an article about the significant Human Resources trends for 2019. The trends identified include

  •  “A Change of Government”
  •  “Gig Economy Classification”
  •  “Sexual Harassment”
  •  “Technology Trends”

SafetyAtWorkBlog will be more specific in its occupational health and safety (OHS) “trends” for 2019.

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