Learning and Development Needs of OHS Personnel

George Robotham from www.ohschange.com.au has been burning the midnight oil on this for sometime and a big group of us fellow trouble makers have had some input into it. I’ve just published here the general advice section but feel free to download the whole paper if this topic is of interest to you (it should be!)

Download the whole paper here: [Download not found]

General advice for the learning of OHS people

It is incredibly stupid and arrogant to think a tertiary OHS qualification will give you all the skills and knowledge you need, some would get upset if I suggested it was merely a learner’s permit. In my experience the most dangerous OHS person is the new graduate who thinks they know it all and with their perceived self importance proceed to alienate all and sundry but particularly the frontline workers.

Develop an empathy, good communication and trust with front line workers, you will learn a lot from them.

Spend much more time in the field than the office. Get to understand the work done, the safety issues and the perspectives. Force yourself to do an inspection of all field areas at least once a week. Be visible, the communication will flow and you will learn.

Hold your work out for peer review, sometimes you will not like the feedback you get, that is the price you have to pay to learn.

When you have a report send out a draft for comment first, you must meet the needs of your customers.

If you do not know, ask around fellow safety people, often they will pull out all stops to help you.

Leading and / or being a member of safety project team usually ends up with significant learning and often is a great way to drive major safety change.

You have to resolve to be a life-long learner, often learning in fields allied to your major discipline will increase your effectiveness in your major discipline. Never stop learning.

Develop skills in critical thinking and managing systematically

Be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge and experience you can. Never be scared to ask for advice and experience, never stop learning. Look beyond what others see and learn to understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’.

Finding yourself a mentor will be of real value and constantly discuss issues with your peers.

Deliberately ask for the hard jobs. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone is a great way to learn and do not be afraid to fail. Failure is a great way to learn.

Start your learning at the level you can handle. Simple principles can be easily learnt, you don’t need to be an academic.

Do not take yourself too seriously and celebrate success.

Get some experience in high risk environments.

Evaluate for yourself the value in joining an appropriate OHS professional organisation. Properly organised you can learn and contribute.

Join some of the Linkedin OHS forums, networking with peers can be a great way to learn.

Personally I think maintaining a reflective journal is a good way to learn.

Safety is in everything we do and say. Read widely and look for safety management and skill in everything you read. The local library will have many management books that are useful in safety.

Undertake a formal OHS qualification, even if it is only a Cert IV. Your employers are looking for formal qualification.

Get a tertiary OHS qualification, ensure you check out any courses you are interested in with past or present learners. Distance education has advantages for some but there may not end up being much interaction with fellow learners. My advice is to choose a course that includes workplace tasks.

Assess if there is tertiary learning in non-safety disciplines that can aid your safety journey.

Attend Cert IV T.A.E. Despite the fact this qualification is only a learner’s permit it is what many employers want. I find it disappointing this qualification has become the de-facto standard by which facilitation of learning competency is judged.

Attend short course learning on leadership, organisational change, communications skills, interpersonal skills, project management, quality management, basic human resource management, critical thinking and basic marketing.

A project I have set for myself is to learn how psychology principles can be applied in safety, you may wish to do a similar thing.

Download the whole paper here: [Download not found]

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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