Evolution or Revolution?

Dr Karen McDonnell, Occupational Health & Safety Policy Adviser at RoSPA, takes a look at the importance of innovative thinking.

From steam engines and spinning wheels, coal and Davy lamps, to electricity and mass production, Great Britain has embraced change. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) considerations embedded at each stage and our approach to managing risk evolved. OHS practice has developed in parallel creating a network of professional organisations in occupational safety and health, with their constituent members across the country and the wider world… and the value they add is tangible.

However, nothing is static in our OHS world and on the horizon or perhaps not even that far away is the anticipated rapid and significant automation of product manufacturing, the associated processes, documentation and the concomitant impact on human behaviour. New techniques and terminology are forcing us to re-articulate our OHS world and yet the basic physical, chemical and biological systems remain the same.

It’s been said that ‘every next level of your life will demand a different version of you’ this applies to each of us and to the individual facets of the OHS profession. To remain relevant, with a place at the table, a move from ‘classical or traditional’ OHS to an inclusive approach is required to meet the needs of this external rapidly changing cost conscious environment. Perhaps the change of pace is now, more revolutionary than evolutionary?

OHS practitioners at the centre have developed expertise in the inter-relatedness of engineering, human factors, leadership, digital technology artificial intelligence, the list goes on. A ‘joined-uppedness’ helps us move from reactive to proactive, driven by exposure control, making it easy for people to do the right thing (after you’ve asked them what they think the right thing is!). The aim is to move towards whole system thinking in organisations, unlocking the hidden value of OHS. Perhaps the current terminology is jaded, we think we know what risk assessment is all about, but are we really thinking innovatively and making our knowledge accessible to all?

We need a groundswell of opinion and a change in practice across OHS world to reinforce our relevance in the post IR 4 world… Do you agree? Have your say in the comment box below.

Categories: Innovative


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Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is head of RoSPA Scotland & Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser. She is also the immediate past president of IOSH.

October 1, 2018

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