Essential Preparation for a Safety Job
Most of what makes up the WHS curriculum doesn’t prepare someone for undertaking the job of safety advisor. Training a parrot to recall legislation and regulation is pretty meaningless, when a lawyer will be called in when something goes wrong.
When it comes to standards and process most of it cannot be memorized nor recalled when required, especially when anything can be looked up on an ipad in a few seconds.
Then there are those who actually do the work who have years and years of stored intuitive knowledge (heuristics) in how the job is done. Whatever has been written in some checklist only makes things Papersafe (https://www.booktopia.com.au/paper-safe-gregory-w-smith/book/9780987630001.html ) and rarely reflects the changing nature of work or the job at hand, being undertaken heuristically (https://safetyrisk.net/the-purpose-of-routines-habits-and-heuristics-checking-your-gut/ ). If something does go wrong, the court is going to be just as interested about conversations on the day than what was projected on paper sitting in a computer or filing cabinet.
The trouble is, the WHS curriculum doesn’t prepare for: engagement, conversation, listening, facilitation, critical thinking, ethical decision making, engendering trust, learning or a host of person-centric skills required to undertake the job.
At best one could call the current WHS curriculum ‘compulsory mis-education’ (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-entitlement-and-compulsory-safety-mis-education/ ). All of the essential people skills required to undertake a job in safety are simply not in the curriculum. Safety has been set up as a discipline that counts objects and numerics and as such, alienates workers from the fundamentals of safety: caring for and helping people tackle risk.
Indeed, when the AIHS Body of Knowledge chapter on ethics that doesn’t even mention care and helping, is it any wonder that there is no ethic in the WHS curriculum on the essential skills of engagement effectiveness?
The first and most important skill for any safety advisor is knowing how to walk the job, engage with workers, listen and facilitate learning. How astounding that the WHS curriculum has nothing on the psychology of learning!
One thing is for sure, if an advisor thinks their task is to walk the job and tell workers about regulations, they will create their own force field of alienation.
And despite all of this, there has still been no call for reform of the WHS curriculum (https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/ ). It seems the task of this curriculum is to create a discipline of irrelevance. When WHS texts still contain 90 year old nonsense pyramids and false models of ratios (https://safetyrisk.net/ration-delusions-and-heinrichs-hoax/ ), surely it would be time to call for reform?
The trouble is, there is so much sunk cost and political investment in the current curriculum, that any questioning of it is met with mystical applauds of great success. When the industry calls its identity by a number and then claims some spiritual healing by that number (https://safetyrisk.net/the-spirit-of-zero/) wouldn’t you think someone would be calling into question the trajectory of this mono-disciplinary industry? Apparently not.
Every person who enrols in the Introduction to Social Psychology of Risk module (https://safetyrisk.net/free-online-module-introduction-to-the-social-psychology-of-risk/ ) without exception gives testimony to claims just made. Most think they know how to engage workers, listen and help learning without any education or skill development in any of these things. In many cases the indoctrination of the WHS curriculum convinces people that they have been well prepared for their job, they have not. This becomes abundantly clear after the advisor honeymoon period ends.
You don’t know what you don’t know and can’t apply skills you have not learned/practiced, especially when you have been told that safety is about regulation and counting.
There is nothing more important for a safety person than to walk the job, but where is the education in the WHS curriculum that teaches the nature of observation, psychology of perception, psychology of motivation and how to influence people and groups? It’s not there.
Where is the skill development in the WHS curriculum that teaches the art of listening, engagement, helping and facilitating learning? It’s not there.
Where is the field education like the professions that practice their art during the course of learning? Cognitive absorption of legislation and regulation is not education. Chasing PPE on site is not what safety should be about.
Safety is about helping others tackle risk, where is the curriculum on the nature and skills of helping? It’s not there.
The best preparation required for enacting the job of advising is not in the WHS curriculum. No wonder Safety cops a hiding in the workplace and is known as a job for its paperwork and counting.
There are of course positive alternatives and curricula that can help advisors become professional helpers. You will find the development of these skills in any of the helping professions and curriculum that focuses on persons.