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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In an industry where there are no employers, who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

The Victorian Government has been running an inquiry for a little while on the “on-demand workforce”, a term which seems to be a synonym for the gig economy. The government recently extended the deadline for public submissions. This is often a sign that inquiries are struggling for information which is almost an inevitable consequence if you schedule an inquiry over the Christmas/New Year break.

This inquiry has direct relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) and vice versa.

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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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Co-operation may address safety in the work of the future

The investigation of work-related incidents needs to be considered from a broad multidisciplinary perspective.  But occupational health and safety (OHS) itself, applies a much narrower and, some may say, insular perspective.  It hasn’t “played well with others”.  At the recent Comcare conference in Melbourne, Australia, writer Tim Dunlop (pictured right) challenged this type of perception.  He said:

“My point is that it is hard to break out of certain habits of thinking.  Governments pay lip service to the idea that technology will change everything, but then they start talking about jobs and growth as if we were still living in the sixties, where the economy was based on manufacturing, where manufacturing was carried out of factories, employing millions of workers, where the workers were men and where the women stayed at home and looked after the kids.  Those days are gone, and in the future they will be ever more gone.  But the norms of that era I think still informing how we think about the future of work.”

OHS, and some of the safety regulators, may acknowledge the changing future of work

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New reporting standard reflects the social licence

Inaccurate or insufficient data about occupational health and safety (OHS) plagues the decision-making of governments and business, and OHS professionals.  Technology has provided some hope on better datasets but only for the analysis of data, not necessarily the quality of that data. Workplace incidents and issues continue to be under-reported, especially non-traumatic incidents. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) offers a framework for better reporting of OHS issues and incidents which also improves the credibility of companies, helping to regain the trust of the community.

Recently, GRI released its latest

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