All Australian businesses are experiencing disruption. Some are embracing this as Change, but not enough. As occupational health and safety (OHS) is an unavoidable part of running a business, it is being similarly disrupted. So what can one do? I chose to read a short book called “On Disruption”. I purchased it because of the title and I had recently shared the media room at the ALP National Conference with the author, Katherine Murphy. That the book wasn’t about OHS but about the disruption experienced by journalism, newspaper publishing and mainstream media, didn’t bother me as, being a blogger, it should still be of interest either way.
And it was. But what was surprising were the parallels between journalism and OHS. I shouldn’t have been surprised as both are, or claim to be, professions.
One of the fascinating elements of this year’s National Comcare conference is the conflict between the Human Resources (HR) approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) and workers compensation, and the OHS approach to psychosocial hazards. This is not the fault of Comcare as the audience is a peculiar mix of both professions.
The difference was on display when some presenters focused on the post-incident care and, almost entirely, on interventions on the individual. Other presenters focused on the prevention of physical and psychological injuries – the OHS approach. The former seemed warmly embraced by the HR professionals. There were other speakers, or parts of their presentations, where prevention was almost mentioned as an afterthought and even then omitting references to their organisation’s own OHS publications.
There has always been a structural and ideological separation of the professions
ASHPA, the Australian Safety and Health Professional Associations has been quiet for a while but sponsored La Trobe University to undertake some research into the future of work and its impacts on occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals, hygienists, ergonomists and others. It is an interesting insight into the thoughts and perspectives of safety and health professionals but it also cries out for interpretation and analysis.
The report, not yet available online, is based on the responses of 733 safety and health professionals to an online survey. The statistical profile of the profession in Australia is useful and the key findings
Recently Australian media was entranced with an argument over gender politics between two Senators, David Leyonjhelm and Sarah Hanson-Young. One of the elements in the argument concerns sexual harassment in the workplace but is the Australian Parliament a workplace like any other Australian workplace? And does this really matter?
In the aftermath of the initial argument, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said:
“David Leyonhjelm’s offensive remarks should have been withdrawn the moment they were uttered and he should have apologised. And it’s not too late for him to withdraw and apologise.
That type of language has no place in Parliament and it shouldn’t have a place in any workplace. We have to treat each other with respect, we must do that. Respect for women in particular is one of the highest priorities that we should be focused on. I just want to be very clear about this.
It is a, you know, we often talk about domestic violence and our concerns there and all the measures we’re taking to address it. I just want to say this, it’s a reminder to everybody that not all disrespecting women ends in violence against women, but that is where all violence against women begins. So you need to have respectful workplaces where we treat each other with respect. Where we disagree, we disagree in respectful language……” (emphasis added)
The Safety Institute of Australia Limited is consulting with its members about a name change. This was flagged at the SIA’s recent conference and coincidentally follows the renaming of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) to the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). According to a recent statement from CEO, David Clarke, the SIA seems keen to include “Health” in its new title but this was not an option the ASSP took up.
The SIA has chosen