Language, labels, thoughts and restraints

Carsten Busch is a committed voice for improvement in occupational health and safety (OHS) and our understanding of it. Recently he published a research paper entitled “Brave New World: Can Positive Developments in Safety Science and Practice also have Negative Sides?” (open access). The paper is of note for several reasons, not including the use Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel “Brave New World” a book about a dystopia that many Australian high school students in the 1970s were required to read.

Dystopian novels suit the study of OHS as the structure often reflects a character with new experiences of an unfamiliar culture or an awakening or realisation of their place in the world. Brave New World fits the former and George Orwell’s 1984, the latter. OHS professionals often step into a workplace culture that is foreign to what they have understood to be the norm. They evaluate the new culture, find it wanting and suggest repairs, if they can. Over time some OHS professionals, often through an epiphany, realise that they have not achieved what they expected and either leave or turn on the OHS discipline. Some OHS professionals are able to blend both these experiences and perspectives.

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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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Scarlet M for Manslaughter

In March 2019, the Northern Territory government released its “Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety in the Northern Territory”. This report was written by Tim Lyons who reviewed the Queensland work health and safety (WHS) Laws not so long ago. Lyons is creating a career path as sustainable as Alan Clayton who seems to have reviewed all the workers’ compensation systems in the Asia Pacific!

There are many similarities between the two reports which is not surprising – same Model WHS laws, same reviewer….. Yes, Industrial Manslaughter laws were recommended but this is almost a pro forma recommendation at the moment, as it has been supported by at least two State governments, recommended in a Senate inquiry into industrial deaths and pragmatically recommended by the Boland Review. In many ways these WHS-related reviews are feeding off each other.

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In order to grow, OHS needs economists, philosophers, ethicists and gender specialists

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The occupational health and safety (OHS) profession is being affected by demographic changes as much as any other profession. Younger people seem to have a very different expectation on how to interpret and apply OHS, and older people are tired of being lectured to, and this is putting pressure on those who organise events, seminars and conferences and those who mentor and educate in a range of ways.

Some organisations and conferences are responding by reconfiguring the provision of information away from the lecture format of an expert to a mix of communication methods. This blog has written about some of those that occurred in the last two years. These conferences are less academic than in earlier days. Rarely is a conference accompanied by a handbook of research-based conference papers; some provide no papers at all and slideshows delivered a fortnight after the event are devoid of context and next to useless.

Continue reading “In order to grow, OHS needs economists, philosophers, ethicists and gender specialists”

Step into the light, be proud, be an institutional value adder

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.

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