A 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.