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

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.

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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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HR and OHS need to be playmates now more than ever

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

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The future of work and OHS – yeah, but…..

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

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Is the Senate a workplace?

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)

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