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July 2, 2010

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Report – Integrating OSH into university courses

A new report by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) looks at the barriers to incorporating OSH into university education, as well as providing examples of imaginative ways in which these challenges can be overcome.

Among the challenges to this integration, there is often a lack of teaching staff who have expertise in OSH, and a lack of OSH teaching materials suitable for university level. There can also be a lack of funds for developing OSH education at universities, compared with schools, while university courses can favour theoretical learning methods over practical approaches.

“Education is key if we are to develop a culture of risk prevention,” said Jukka Takala, director of EU-OSHA. “But it is not just about teaching children and young adults to live and work safely.

“If OSH is truly to become an integral part of business management and operations, all future managers and professionals need risk education about their role and responsibilities.”

Examples from around Europe of OSH successfully being made a part of university education are also included in the report. Such enabling factors include:

  • Working in cooperation with receptive individuals and organisations (in Germany, for example, a number of universities work in partnership to pool OSH resources);
  • Embedding OSH education within courses, rather than making it an add-on (examples include the inclusion of OSH elements within engineering courses at the University of Liverpool); and
  • Involving students in managing health and safety in their learning environment (as at the Dublin Institute of Technology, where the students’ union is involved in helping the university meet its OSH obligations).

The report concludes that it is necessary to develop a ‘whole-university approach’, which combines OSH and risk education with the practical steps that universities take to provide a safe and healthy working environment for their staff and students.

To view the report, go to: http://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/reports/mainstream_osh_university_education/view

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