The importance of OHS– 11
IN just six months last year, 63 Australians were killed doing their job. They were not soldiers in battle but farmers, labourers, drivers and miners.
Workplace hazards have reduced over the decades but there is more to be done.
A specialist career has emerged in the field of occupational health and safety (OHS) to continue the decline.
SafeWork SA field and frontline services director Juanita Lovatt says it can be a demanding but satisfying career.
‘‘Helping people get home to their loved ones by assisting an organisation to have a workplace free of injury and fatality is the ultimate reward,’’ she says.
‘‘People develop a passion for OHS, either by being a health and safety representative or through experiencing a trauma at work. For others, it is a logical extension of their existing experience within an industry.’’
Health and safety representatives still play a pivotal role in liaising with fellow workers and management about safety issues.
They often also are fire wardens and first-aid officers for their workplaces, as well as undertaking their usual work duties.
Industries with more hazards, however, will also have at least one dedicated OHS officer.
Ms Lovatt says they are typically employed in the manufacturing, construction, health and mining industries.
Positions are often also available in areas of management consultancy and large commercial institutions including banks, insurance, government and retail organisations.
She says OHS professionals should be good communicators and capable of being ‘‘influencers or persuaders’’.
Other essential attributes include excellent writing abilities, use of logic and reasoning, good problem-solving skills and use of good judgment and decision- making. They need to have awide knowledge of laws, codes of practice and standards.
Duties may include workplace inspections, training staff, reporting incidents and introducing prevention initiatives.
Qualifications range from TAFE certificates and diplomas to university degrees and PhDs.
Andrew Cooper is SA health and safety manager for engineering and architectural firm GHD, which SafeWork Australia recently named the nation’s Best ( private sector) Workplace Health and Safety Management System.
‘‘I had a near-miss of my own prior to joining GHD, in a previous role in the UK,’’ Mr Cooper said.
‘‘It made me think seriously about the implications for my family of an injury, or worse, and generated my strong passion for improved safety management.’’
SAFE AND SOUND: GHD’s SA health and safety manager Andrew Cooper has a passion for improved safety.