The Good, Bad & Ugly of My Safety Career

The Good, Bad & Ugly of My Safety Career

We are extremely privileged to be able to publish this work by George Robotham. George is one of the most respected and experienced safety practitioners in Australia. This paper is enthralling reading and documents Georges’ learning’s in his 38 year career working in some of the toughest environments for a safety person. This no holds barred document should be essential reading for safety students and experts alike.


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Well, there is the Good, Bad & Ugly of my safety career. I hope you picked up a few things that will help you with your safety career.

Major lessons learnt-

  1. It is often the relationships you build, not your technical skills, that determines success
  2. Do not take yourself too seriously as if you do you will have difficulty coping with the fact many will not share your passion for safety.
  3. Use personal damage occurrences, not emotion, to guide your preventative efforts.
  4. Be a life-long learner in a variety of fields, not just OHS.
  5. Everything you do must pass the real world test.
  6. Minimise the use of lecture-style presentations.
  7. Challenging the status quo is a lot of fun and very satisfying, much better than putting up with fools and mediocrity. Being a bit of a stirrer is an admirable approach provided it is done sensitively.
  8. Do not get too focused on work, your family should come first.
  9. If it is not face to face it is not communication.

A ex-manager of mine, who has a way with words, says the trouble with safety is that management and safety professionals sometimes engage in acts of public masturbation! I apologise if anyone finds the foregoing offensive but my belief is it is an admittedly crude, but accurate, way of describing some of the things I have seen happen in safety.

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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