Skip to Content, Skip to Navigation

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Aiming at 2030

Aiming at 2030
Article Type:
Publication Date:

“The people in the safety industry are being disrupted out of relevance. Unless we disrupt ourselves first, all the other advances will overtake our roles.”

Guaranteed to make people sit up, Dr Drew Rae opened the Safety Institute of Australia’s National Safety Convention in Sydney by asserting the work injury rate in Australia had dropped, not because of safety systems or risk assessment or behaviour-based safety, but because of the move towards a service economy, because of automation put in place by engineers (not safety engineers), and because of medical advances in treating illness and injury.

Most health and safety practices, he said, dated back decades. “Zero harm by 2012 sounded great in 2000. It’s embarrassing now. And the Swiss Cheese model was 25 years stale last year.”

Rae, from the Safety Science Innovation Lab at Griffith University, said the ideas H&S people have relied on have now reached the point where they are holding us back. “Look ahead 15 years: are we going to be doing the same things, just with more apps?”

Technology will soon allow the automation of anything to do with compliance or assessment, so those parts of H&S roles will disappear: if you can create an app for it you can get rid of it. Future safety professionals, he said, will be doing things only a human can do – they will be experts in organisational politics, people and emotions.

“Safety is not a profession; it is a disparate group with different jobs. Some of those roles are going to disappear.” He said there would always be a place for some highly technical roles, but those aren’t the sort of roles from which people grow to advise the chief executive.

As Rae sees it, the problem is that so much of what H&S people do is based on found knowledge and procedures or routines – “organisational scar tissue” – rather than on strong evidence. “Most people can’t even remember the incident that prompted the procedure!”

The challenge, then, is how to get from here to there by, say, 2030. Rae’s solution: quickly build a body of evidence about what works to teach a new generation of H&S professionals no longer reliant on found knowledge or existing procedures. The problem: it takes three years to educate someone, and Australia’s tertiary education system for H&S can only generate a maximum of 200 graduates a year.

The choice, he said, is to have far fewer safety professionals (but better educated), or to have a large number of them (but mostly not well educated), or to persuade industry to fund professional bodies and universities to increase their capacity for education.



People Mentioned:
Drew Rae
Organisations Mentioned:
Safety Institute of Australia; Griffith University
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Table of Contents