Competency of OHS Personnel

Engineer, entrepreneur or architect woman shruggingWe have sent out several thousand copies of George’s EBooks and they are being picked up as essential reading for several educational and professional institutions. However, George and I are a tad concerned about the comments we are getting in the request emails. A very large proportion are requesting these books due to being “thrown in the deep end” of a new safety role and have “no idea where to start”. I can relate, having had the same experience 20 years ago. Not only is this “unpleasant” for the individual but pretty damning for the safety industry and people who depend upon their skills and expertise.!

See The Quest for Accreditation of Safety in Australia

Competency of OHS Personnel

By the late George Robotham 

Graduate - Confused by Career ChoicesI have had about 4 decades of experience in field, corporate, consultant and project OHS roles. I constantly come across situations that stretch my competency to handle, these are mainly the people issues. During my time in safety I have found the majority of practitioners are very dedicated, try very hard but some lack competency in some areas, sometimes in broader management skills as opposed to safety technical skills. Of course a small number of the people I have worked with have been cretins, a disgrace to the safety business and frankly a waste of space.

Readers of the Riskex safety blog will know I have produced 5 safety e books in the last 4 months or so. The first is Guidance for the beginning OHS professional, the second Broader management skills for the OHS professional, the third What It Means To Be an OHS Professional, the fourth is Lessons I have learnt about management, safety, life and people and the fifth is My Defining, Best and Most Challenging Events in Safety. SEE THEM ALL HERE

Many people all over the world have requested copies but the level of competence of some Australian respondents has concerned me. Guidance for the beginning OHS professional has been particularly popular, I have responded to a few thousand requests for copies and noted comments from those requesting copies.

Many of the people requesting copies have just been starting out in safety and expressed their frustration, lack of good guidance and their lack of competence in being able to do their job. One person said” I have just recently inherited the WHS role here and have no clue what I’m doing” Based on comments received it would appear there are a number of inexperienced OHS people struggling in their role. As far as I am concerned this is not a great reflection on how Australia manages OHS.

The reaction to my e books has been overwhelmingly positive with many people saying they have learn more from them from some of their formal learning. Whilst such comments are great for my ego I have to say I do not think there is anything particularly special about the books, to a large extent I have simply commented on my experiences in safety and what I have learnt in the process. The fact that my books have got such a good reaction says to me there is a gap in provision of resources elsewhere.

I have not worked with many OHS graduates but well remember one that I gave a relatively simple job to. He stuffed the job up beyond belief and annoyed everyone with his holier than thou, I am a mighty graduate approach that it made it difficult for me to retrieve the situation. Others have question how practically useful graduates from OHS education are.

The Safety Institute of Australia is to be commended for beginning the process of development of the OHS Body of Knowledge, this is in its infancy and much more work is required.

See The Quest for Accreditation of Safety in Australia

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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