Ethics, safety and fingertips

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) launched its Body of Knowledge Chapter on Ethics in Melbourne to a small group of occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. Participants were asked to outline an ethical challenge they had faced as OHS professionals.

In that same week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release that showed a poor follow-through by a business on advice from an OHS professional.

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Kevin Jones

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Kevin Jones with family in Paris 2012

I thought I might follow Wade Needham’s reflections and thoughts with my own. Indulgent? Maybe.

How did you get into Health & Safety?

My first contact with workplace health and safety was as an Administrative Officer in the Victorian Department of Labour in the late 1980s before moving to the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, the precursor to WorkSafe Victoria, in the early 1990s.  I worked in the Major Hazards Branch and was involved in preparing options for the relocation of the Coode Island chemical storage facility before it exploded.

What drives you?

The Health and Safety profession has been notoriously shy in expressing opinions for many reasons including timidity, insecurity and laziness.  This reluctance has contributed to the dominant perspective of H&S as a business nuisance rather than a profitable aid to business.  My frustration with this caused me to write and speak about H&S as an unavoidable and legitimate element of business.

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Wade Needham

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It’s been a while since SafetyAtWorkBlog offered a profile on one of its subscribers. Wade Needham was generous enough to answer some questions about himself. His responses are intriguing and he provides excellents links to other resources.

Wade Needham on the far right in 2018 with, from the left, Tim Allred, Andrew Barrett and Naomi Kemp

If you are a SafetyAtWorkBlog subscriber and would like to follow Wade’s lead, email your responses to the following questions:

  • How did you get into Health & Safety?
  • What drives you?
  • What helps you slow down?
  • Regrets?
  • Favourite fiction writer?
  • What is one trend you are watching keenly?
  • Person/s who you watch and take inspiration from in H&S that you think will have an increasing impact in the sector:
  • What are you most excited about in our sector?
  • What’s your favourite quote?
  • Biggest issue facing the H&S profession?
  • What do you wish you had understood sooner?
  • What would you like to see to improve collaboration in our sector?
  • What should you have been doing whilst you answered this?
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Where does OHS fit?

Any assessment of ethics in relation to occupational health and safety (OHS) is worthwhile and so the release of a chapter on ethics by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) generated some excitement. That excitement diminished somewhat as this Chapter of the Body of Knowledge (BoK) dealt with ethics in a very narrow context – “Ethics and Professional Practice“.

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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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