Are You Making A Difference As An OHS Professional?

Are You Making A Difference As An OHS Professional?

George’s Response to: 

safety helperIntroduction

Working in OHS can be very frustrating and stressful and we tend to knock ourselves around when we are unable to drive significant improvements in safety. Sometimes the OHS people are the corporate safety conscience for organisations.

In these days of complex safety management plans, detailed safe working procedures, volume sucking OHS management plans and lead and lag safety indicators the little signs of success tend to be overlooked

I will give you a few examples from my past that illustrate what I mean-

1 After my leaving presentation in one job one senior manager came up to me to wish me well, offer himself as a referee and give me some feedback on my performance. He said I was like a mongrel terrier dog and chewed away on his ear until he did what I wanted him to do. He said a lot of the time he did what I wanted him to do because he realised I was right but admitted sometimes it was just to get rid of me. The manager’s comments were better than any formal performance appraisal.

2 In one job I used to facilitate a 2 day accident investigation course that questioned a lot of the traditional concepts, philosophies, beliefs and ideas on safety. There was often quite robust discussion on what I had to say. On one course one bloke got quite angry about what I had to say as it was challenging a lot of his long held, cherished beliefs.

About 6 months later I was at Mackay airport waiting for a plane when the bloke from the course came up to me. We had a few beers and got on talking about the accident investigation course. He said I had really upset him challenging traditional approaches to safety but now he had the chance to think about it had decided I was not as full of crap as he originally thought. You had to be there but it made me think my efforts were worthwhile.

3 In my role as Rehabilitation Coordinator I case managed a particularly messy stress case where a female secretary was being harassed / bullied by her boss. I gradually got the claimant back into productive full time employment. In a conversation with my secretary the claimant said that I really cared. My secretary said I was paid to care. The claimant said that she knew I was paid to care but I went over and above that.

4 At one job I led the implementation of a Critical Incident Recall project in the electrical department of an open cut coal mine after a serious electrical accident. I have written elsewhere on the technique which is very valuable. The work made many changes.

About 6 months later I was camping on a cattle property with a group of people from work including an electrician and an electrical foreman. Over more XXXX Gold than was safe and healthy, around the campfire, we got on talking about the work that had been done in the electrical department. Both electricians expressed the view that fatalities were prevented.


It is easy to get locked into big picture ways of measuring your success as a safety person and this can be soul destroying at times and make you think you are not achieving much. Good safety people achieve a lot and influence many through their everyday interactions. Often it is the small things that make a lot of difference.

Do not knock yourself about, there is a very good chance you are achieving a lot more than is readily apparent.

Editors Note:

I think you should also read this one by Rob Long:

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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