How much attention should we give to gender in OHS?

I once had to stop a potential fight on a construction site between a works supervisor and a safety professional.  The verbal abuse and niggling occurred for several minutes before the men’s chest were inflated like roosters and it was at this point I stepped in to diffuse the situation by asking some questions as…

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Are OHS professionals on the ‘B’ Ark?

In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Douglas Adams has a character tell a story of a ship of middle managers being sent from a supposedly doomed plant to colonise a new world.  The ‘B’ Ark contains millions of

“Hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants,….”

I think occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals are lucky they were not included in the list because many people consider OHS professionals to be little more than a nuisance.   Continue reading “Are OHS professionals on the ‘B’ Ark?”

Don’t kill anyone. Don’t seriously injure anyone.

Tooma 2016Michael Tooma (pictured right) has been a leading writer on occupational health and safety (OHS) law in Australia for some time.  He is one of the few labour lawyers who is not afraid to express an opinion although he has always spoken within the legal context.

Recently Tooma participated in a roadshow with

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What does the Prime Minister’s criticism of banking culture mean for OHS?

Some of Australia’s mainstream media reported on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s admonishment of the banking sector on April 6 2016.  He accused them of having an unhealthy culture, reflecting a general and growing public dissatisfaction with large financial institutions, insurance companies and other corporations.

Given that the dominant perspective on occupational health and safety (OHS), at the moment, is the importance of an organisational culture that values workplace safety, it is worth looking at Prime Minister Turnbull’s words and those of prominent executives and financial regulators recently reported in the mainstream press.

Continue reading “What does the Prime Minister’s criticism of banking culture mean for OHS?”

If you build it, they will come

Cover of SIA_draft_Strategic_Plan_ConsulationThe Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) continues to rebuild its reputation and its credibility.  In February 2016 it released a draft Strategic Planning Framework and is seeking public comment. (Consultation closes on March 25)  A major difference in this approach is that the SIA is encouraging this draft plan to be distributed widely, outside of the SIA’s membership and is seeking comments from non-members.  The SIA has never been known for its transparency and this new openness is to be applauded.

Interested parties are encouraged to provide the SIA with as much feedback as possible on the draft framework. Continue reading “If you build it, they will come”

SafetyAtWorkBlog’s most popular articles of 2015

SafetyAtWorkBlog has had a successful 2015, consolidating itself as a valid independent voice on workplace health and safety, particularly in Australia. But readers don’t get access to some of the statistics for the site and as a year in review exercise below are the top five most-read articles written in 2015, highest readership first:

Impairment argument fails to convince Fair Work Commission over unfair dismissal

WorkSafe Victoria heads roll

Research raises serious questions on SIA’s certification push

Some are losing faith in the Victorian Workcover Authority 

Safety learnings from construction Continue reading “SafetyAtWorkBlog’s most popular articles of 2015”

OHS Professionals get, or want, global attention

Pages from INSHPO_2015-OHS_Professional_Capability_FrameworkThe International Network of Safety & Health Practitioner Organisations (INSHPO) has launched the “The OHS Professional
Capability Framework – A Global Framework for Practice“.  The document reflects many of the issues raised in recently published research on occupational health and safety (OHS) professionalism, accreditation and certification.  However there are a couple of useful issues to note, from a very brief review, that indicate a major step forward.

Professional, Practitioner, Generalist

Australian OHS professionals have felt insulted over the last few years by the use of the title “OHS Generalist”.  The proponents of this concept failed to understand that the term was divisive (and insulting to some) and this failure indicates a persistent problem in communicating change to the OHS profession in a manner that fosters cooperation.  The INSHPO document seems to drop the Generalist category so beloved by the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board. Continue reading “OHS Professionals get, or want, global attention”

“Old” documents improve the context of modern OHS initiatives

cover of Professional Development Needs of Generalist OHS PractitionersSeveral long and involved phone conversations resulted from last week’s articles on Australia’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Body of Knowledge (BoK) and its role in accreditation of tertiary OHS courses.  It is worth looking at the origins of some of the issues behind the research on these safety initiatives.

One important document was published by the National OHS Commission (NOHSC, a forerunner of Safe Work Australia) in 1999 – “Professional Development Needs of Generalist OHS Practitioners“* .  This NOHSC document continues to be referenced in the continuing debates listed above and illustrates the need to understand our recent OHS past. Continue reading ““Old” documents improve the context of modern OHS initiatives”

Is Australia’s OHS Body of Knowledge a dud?

An online version of Safety Science includes an article by Gunther Paul and Warwick Pearse who discuss “An international benchmark for the Australian OHS Body of Knowledge” (paywalled). Paul and Pearse have been critical of the emphasis given the OHS Body of Knowledge (OHS BoK) in the the accreditation processes of Australian OHS professionals and the accreditation of tertiary OHS courses.  In this article they benchmarked the OHS BoK against three other international bodies of knowledge and ranked it the lowest in quality, structure and content.

[This article can be read as a companion piece to

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Accreditation research paper misses the mark

The discussion of Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) education and accreditation continues in the academic press.  A recent contribution is from Pam Pryor, Registrar of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB) entitled “Accredited OHS professional education: A step change for OHS capability” (paywalled).  Pryor continues to make the case for the necessity of accreditation for university OHS courses but evidence seems to remain thin and an arbitrary differentiation between competence and capability is hard to understand outside of academic discourse. Continue reading “Accreditation research paper misses the mark”