OHS Challenges in Australia

OHS Challenges in Australia

This is one of the best safety papers I have read for a long, long time and TOTALLY RELEVANT ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD. Its Author, George Robotham  admits to having a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training – and he backs up his philosophies brilliantly in this article. I guarantee, after downloading and reading this article, that you will also want to challenge the way things have always been done. OHS Challenges in Australia 2011 (2506)

This paper explores the author’s beliefs about the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) challenges facing Australia in 2011. Through a process of critical reflection on the theory he has been exposed to and his practical experiences, the author explains what he considers are the major obstacles to safety progress in Australia. His major conclusion is that there is an urgent need for a National, Class 1 personal damage occurrence (“accident”) data base to provide a factual base for OHS decision-making.

George Challenges The Following Safety Traditions

  • Absence of a scientific discipline
  • Focus on the Personal Damage Phenomenon
  • De-emphasise the Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate
  • Risk Assessment
  • An over reliance on tertiary OHS education as the panacea for the woes of the safety business
  • Standard of OHS staff
  • Body of knowledge
  • Lack of safety leadership
  • Lack of dynamic, member focussed professional organisations
  • Communications
  • An over reliance on A.N.Z.S. 4801 Safety Management Systems
  • OHS education of management
  • The tendency to pick up and run with the latest fads
  • OHS legislation
  • Highly visible demonstrated commitment to health and safety on behalf of Senior Management
  • Auditing
  • Interpersonal skills

Quotable Quote from the paper:

"A health & safety problem can be described by statistics but cannot be understood by statistics. It can only be understood by knowing and feeling the pain, anguish, and depression and shattered hopes of the victim and of wives, husbands, parents, children, grandparents and friends, and the hope, struggle and triumph of recovery and rehabilitation in a world often unsympathetic, ignorant, unfriendly and unsupportive, only those with close experience of life altering personal damage have this understanding"


There are far too many people who have their life permanently altered (terminated or impaired) in Australia every year, sadly we do not really know how many. There is some evidence to suggest that the incidence of some Class 1 damage is getting worse not better.

There are many dedicated people working hard to address OHS in Australia. Much of what is being done has no factual basis and is thus ineffective. Many are urging us to carry out basic risk assessments, the risk assessment process is potentially flawed, because in many cases, it uses estimates rather than solid personal damage data. We urgently need to change our focus from Lost Time accidents to Class 1 damage. The author suggests the content of much safety tertiary training courses suffers from lack of a solid, factual personal damage data base.

We need a two tiered approach, one at the collective level for governments to change the way they report and educate on safety and one at the individual level where we, as safety people, should seek facts to support our strategies.

We must start to base what we do in safety on solid damaging occurrence data if we are to improve- a National Class 1 damage data base should be a Government priority.

Download paper here: OHS Challenges in Australia 2011 (2506)

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