A Challenge To SIA and SIWA

A Challenge To SIA and SIWA

In this article (or “challenge”) George resurrects a long term debate about joining a Professional Safety Association in Australia. It is not mandatory and you will probably not be asked about it when you apply for a job (unless the interviewer is a member?). There are other effective networking opportunities available (ie LinkedIn). For people to be motivated to do anything they must know “what’s in it for me?”


I am a member of neither of the above OHS professional associations, I am interested in being convinced I can learn more about OHS by becoming a member. My 10 page paper Professional Association Effectiveness, available from fgrobotham@gmail.com is my attempt to put some focus on the issue.

Objective of professional associations

My view is that the objectives of a professional association includes the following-

  • Leading and monitoring professional principles, process and practice and promoting a body of knowledge specific to the profession.
  • Encouraging and prioritising research and development to advance professional knowledge and disseminating this knowledge to the stakeholders.
  • Influential with government, business, unions and other key stakeholders
  • Credible and increasing the profession’s visibility and reputation
  • Identifying and satisfying member needs
  • Challenging the status quo
  • Providing excellent learning for members
  • Providing a pleasant and enjoyable social outlet for members
  • Facilitating networking of members and enabling communication and connection
  • Minimising disputes with members
  • Being loyal to members and professional ideals
  • Treating all interactions with dignity, respect and compassion
  • Having an appropriate sense of humour

Recommendations for ensuring an effective professional organisation

It has been suggested that the following must be in place AND seen to be in place to have an effective organisation-

1 Dynamic, visible, accessible, caring leadership

2 Open, honest, focussed and succinct communication

3 Transparent governance

If you do not have the above, you will have trust issues and when trust goes out the door you are in big trouble.

What members say they value in their professional organisations

As part of the process of writing my Professional Association Effectiveness paper I conducted an informal poll about what people said they valued in a professional association. About 50 people responded and comments were-

Informative, responsive to member needs, issues addressed quickly and without fuss, strong support for local chapters, you are not just another number, regular meaningful e-mails, follow up on issues raised, association moves the profession forward, transparent, open, honest communication that promotes valuable discussion, trade shows with conferences valuable, pre and post conference courses good, keeps me up to date, gives practical advice, has influence with government, can get answers to practical problems, have a good time at conferences, like it when conferences and courses involve the audience, get to know people to network with, getting the international perspective from speakers and fellow delegates at conferences is valuable, like it when members get publically recognised, increases the visibility of the profession, good networking, identifies and services the needs of a diverse range of people in the profession, encourages connection and communication between members, having reciprocal arrangements for recognition by equivalent associations overseas, management is accountable to members, has an e-mail address I can direct enquiries to, when I ring I get a quality answer, they thank you for your efforts and for getting in contact with them, not too much time spent telling me how good they are, organisation has credibility and membership helps get a job, large member base, relevant papers on the web site


I deal with a number of OHS people who are not members of either S.I.A. or S.I.W.A. My understanding is that the majority of OHS people in Australia are not members of either organisation. The challenge is to convince people there is value in joining.

George can be contacted on fgrobotham@gmail.com, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)

George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia, fgrobotham@gmail.com, www.ohschange.com.au,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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