Defining Safety

imageA comment to a blog recently by Kevin Jones stated: ‘……issues that OHS usually does not engage with, such as staff resourcing, production timelines, lack of appropriate training and knowledge and more. How can the OHS profession affect changes in these areas? Should we become social activists on (non-OHS-related) matters?’ What an interesting way to define ‘non-OHS- related matters’. Why is it that Safety has evolved to this state where critical aspects to do with people-at-work are deemed by the industry as ‘non-OHS-related’?

Unfortunately, over the past 30 years the safety industry has come to define itself as the caretaker of WHS Legislation and Regulation. We see this evidenced in the AIHS BoK with a 75% focus on objects, systems and regulation. Similarly, in the curriculum we observe this same 75% focus, a clear legacy from the days when OHS (WHS) was understood as an engineering process. This history is also evidenced in the change of name from American Association of Safety Engineers to American Association of Safety Professionals in 2018. No wonder Safety has evolved to become the industry of counting , metrics, numerics, objects and policing!

However, there is no reason why such an evolution ought not be challenged by ‘social activists’. Why is it that the most critical factor in the safety equation – humans/people are not the focus of the industry? No wonder the ideology of zero has captured the industry and locked it into no vision. There can never be vision from an ideology of stasis and risk aversion. How crazy that the industry has no idea how to accept harm and can only maintain the delusion of infallibility.

It makes no-sense to keeping objects safe especially if humans/people are engaged with that object, objects are easily replaceable.

It is crazy that this industry of objects is so poorly prepared to tackle people-focused challenges at work in ‘helping’ people be safe. Have a look at the current AIHS or NSCA training programs and you will see evidence of this object-focused industry. See how zero shapes these associations and limits a people-focused vision.

Vision is not about objects nor regulation, vision is always about the future of people. I don’t care what the technology of the future is, the real question is how will it affect people? I don’t care what the work-process is either the real question is, how will it affect the social arrangement of people and communities?

Unless Safety moves from this zero-vision object-centred outlook it will never tackle the significant political and ethic issues that plague its telos.


Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

6 Replies to “Defining Safety”

  1. It is somewhat ironic but the AIHS vision mentions productive workplaces and the OHS BOK structure identifies the sociopolitical context yet it operates in a closed system. This is obviously to ensure it reflects and aligns with the Friedman doctrine on corporate social responsibility and free market fundamentalism.

    It is extremely reluctant to challenge the orthodoxy, which is evident via the endorsement of zero harm ideology and the Boland whitewash. Maybe the AIHS and NSCA should amalgamate with the AiG and the ACCI.

  2. The safety cult or sect, especially the AIHS and NSCA with cohorts of pseudo-academics have no integrity and are like a pack of hyenas stripping a dead carcass.

  3. The following statement comes from the profile for the AIHS Chair of the College of Fellows who recently endorsed the Boland Review………”In addition to the normal workload of the subcommittees of the College, the change from the SIA to the AIHS has involved a lot of backroom governance work as well as liaison with key leaders and submissions to major inquiries.”

    The AIHS or SIA did not provide any submissions to the federal parliament senate select committee inquiry into health policy, administration and expenditure.

    The AIHS or SIA did not provide any submissions to the Queensland parliamentary inquiry covering black lung or its extended terms of reference for other occupational respirable dusts.

    The AIHS or SIA did not provide any submissions to the CFA parliamentary inquiry in Victoria

    The AIHS or SIA did not provide any submissions to the federal parliamentary inquiry into the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia.

    Donald Trump could not have written it better.

  4. Another sinister feature with the rebranding of the SIA is its encroachment into mental health. Not content with how its scientism, structuralism and objectivism has extirpated occupational health and safety and created increasing psychosocial risks its dabbling in this professional discipline raises significant concerns.

    Much like the big four (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY) with the collapse of Carillion in the UK and the disastrous home insulation program in Australia its charlatans and snake oil salesmen make a fortune providing consultancy services with superficial nostrums and are further rewarded trying to unravel the entrails from the dung heap it created.

    As soon as I see, hear or read anyone with post nominals such as FSIA, COHSProf or ChOHSP I smell bullshit.

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