Occupational Health and Safety Practitioners’ Roles

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Dr Kirsten B. Olsen
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and Health, Massey University
Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North 4442
k.b.olsen@massey.ac.nz

(P31, Friday 28, Ilott Theatre, 10.30)

Published in: Health & Medicine

Occupational Health and Safety Practitioners’ Roles

  1. 1. Occupational health and safety practitioners’ roles Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and Health by Kirsten Olsen & Leigh-Ann Harris OHSIG 2011
  2. 2. Outline • Definition of OHS practitioner/professional? • Why look at OHS practitioners’ role? • What do we know from international research? • The study of 10 OHS practitioners in NZ – Methods – Personal drivers, job role and tasks – Strategies and impactCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  3. 3. OHS practitioner or OHS professional? • OHS practitioner is a person that in one way or another regularly conducts OHS activities within organisations (Brun & Loiselle 2002) • OHS professional: someone engaged in providing OHS services who: – Has a group identity – Shares education and training – Has special, uncommon knowledge – Uses knowledge in service of others – Has some autonomy in decision making (individual judgement) – Adheres to certain values – Is penalised for substandard practice (Strahlendorf 2004)Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management Kirsten Olsen
  4. 4. Focus of the presentation • OHS practitioners - not necessarily professionals • Employed in positions where OHS is the main focus (OHS manager, advisor, coordinator...) • Employed in organisations situated on the North Island, NZCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  5. 5. Why OHS practitioners? • OHS practitioners have become a key interpreter of legislation after change to outcome regulation (not prescriptive legislation) • OHS practitioners can be seen as key actors in implementing change (OHS intervention programmes) • We do not know much about what they do in NZ • Focus on training and certificationCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  6. 6. International research 1. Onset in the OHS profession, focus on: - description of OHS professionals’ task - normative description of their role Survey based studies 2. Onset in the Ergonomics discipline, looks at: - OHS professionals’ strategies - ability to influence change processes and improve OHS Based on case studies and semi-structured interviewsCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  7. 7. Categories of OHS practitioners activities Brun, Claude & Loiselle (2002) Examples of prevention activities Organizational Technical Human Develop organizational Influence strategic decisions Make upper management Strategic policies through technical advice more aware of OHS priorities Draw up an annual prevention Develop standards for the use budget of equipment and materials Foster OHS engagement among workers Write an annual report on OHS activities Investigate work accidents Conduct studies and research Inform workers Operational into technical safety problems Manage work accident files Train workers in safe work Carry out risk analysis methods Ensure that OHS policies and procedures are correctly Meet with workers to applied discuss OHSCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management Kirsten Olsen
  8. 8. International OHS professional studies Hale and Guldenmund (2006) • Questionaires containing 169 questions – 11 on their workplace – 83 on tasks and frequencies – 31 on hazards and frequencies – 36 on collaboration/contacts – 8 on demographics – Aim to define the core tasks • Distributed in 12 countries (10 EU, AU and Singapore)Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  9. 9. Core tasks of OHS professionals (60%) Hale and Guldenmund (2006) • Check compliance of policies with laws • Workplace risk assessment • Job safety analysis • Develop policy on machinery and process safety • Personal Protective Equipment • Inform and discuss risks with stakeholders • Investigate incidents, make recommendations • Physical inspections • Design safety training • Audits of workplace behaviour • Policies on emergency situationsCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  10. 10. Profile of an Australian OHS professional Borys, Else, Pryor & Sawyer (2006) • Older male working full-time with postgraduate qualification working for the organisation less than 5 years • Human focused risk approaches: – Compliance – Procedural and PPE solutions • The lower end of the hierarchy of control • Functional role rather than strategicCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  11. 11. Profile of Australian OHS professionals Borys, Else, Pryor & Sawyer (2006) • Task not part of OHS professionals’ job: – Involvement in integrating safety in design – Review of design – Risk analysis of projects, designs or activities – Member of team planning large-scale maintenance – Keeps statistics on sickness absence or accidents – Advise on/set budget for safety – Carry out cost-benefit analysesCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management Kirsten Olsen
  12. 12. The Australians conclude Pryor (2010) • Difficult to make conclusions about their strategic influence • Need to know more about what their activities encompass • “We still have little understanding of the personal, professional and organisational factors that may have an impact on whether OHS professionals are strategically influential with senior management”Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  13. 13. Research with the onset in ergonomics • OHS practitioners’ difficulties initiating change because it is hard to get OHS included on the agendas of the organisation: • OHS is side-lined Hasle & Jensen (2006) • Explanation: use of ‘knowledge’ strategy and ‘regulation’ strategy Hasle & Sorensen (2011) • Acting as a ‘political reflective navigator’ improves influence and impact Hasle & Sorensen(2011), Broberg & Hermund (2004), Theberge & Neumann (2010) • Ergonomists have to do ‘organisational work’ in many cases to be able to create change Theberge & Neumann (2010)Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  14. 14. Political reflective navigator • Political in the sense of pursuing a work environment agenda • Reflective in the sense of being able to switch between different roles and mobilizing different kind of knowledge depending on the context • A navigator in the sense of knowing how to navigate in the complex surrounding in the technological change process Broberg & Hermund (2004), p 315Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  15. 15. Ergonomists’ organisational work Theberge & Neumann 2011, p 82 Stakeholders OUTCOMES ORGANISATIONAL WORK Organisational Credibility change Focused Organisational Change Work focused Ergonomist Organisational workplace Work change Credibility EstablishedCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  16. 16. Methods for the New Zealand study • Recruited 10 OHS practitioners: 5 through NZISM, 5 by snowballing • Interviews (½ semistructured, ½ structured) lasting 1 – 2 hours • Transcribed • Analysed thematically using NVIVO 9: – personal drive/aim – job role – OHS tasks – strategy – impactCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  17. 17. Demographics • Practitioners were caracterisised by – Gender: 5 male/ 5 female – Age: 6 older than 40 years /4 between 30 and 39 years – Years practiced in OHS: 6 more than 10 years / 4 between 6&10 years – OHS education: 3 post grad; 2 degree; 1 diploma; 2 certificate; 2 nil • Employment: 5 private / 5 public sector, 8 full time / 2 part time • Large companies (7 from org, with more than 500 employees) • Short tenure in organisation (7 less than 3 years, 3: 6-10 years) • Job title: 4 OHS managers, 6 OHS advisors/officersCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  18. 18. Personal drive • Experience of work-related illnesses or injuries to colleagues or family • Interest in creating good working environment • To initiate changeCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  19. 19. Wants to make a difference “I really love working with people and I like to make a difference and to know that the work that I’m doing “I like it now because I have a with, say, an office of people very big influence on the is helping to keep them culture of the workplace. For a safe” workplace with around 2000 people one person can make a big deal, and I find that I have a good opportunity to change and that’s what I like about it”Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  20. 20. Job role • No difference related to job title ! • Main role: To advise management (only two mentioned advising staff) – Advice, coach, train, encourage, help and drive • Secondary: – Develop, implement & maintain the OHS management system – Make sure OHS audits are passed “In a nutshell, my role is to – it sounds horrible – • Third: Ensure compliance with the law prevent the organisation from being prosecuted by the Department of Labour (…)”Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  21. 21. Core tasks for International and NZ OHS practitioners Task Core Int Core NZ Workplace/risk assessment x x Job safety analysis x X Specify safety measures, check compliance x x Discuss OHS with all levels in the company X X Design safety training x x Investigate accidents and make recommendations x x Physical inspections and audits x x Develop company policy machinery x PPE x Policy on emergency x Develop and implement OHSMS and annual plans x Design and implement safety campaign x Deliver OHS training x Statistics on accidents and advise on injury claims xCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  22. 22. Focus of OHS practitioners’ tasks Examples of prevention activities Organizational dimension Technical dimension Human dimension Examples Examples Examples Strategic Develop organizational Influence strategic decisions of Make upper management policies an organization through more aware of OHS technical advice priorities Draw up an annual prevention budget Develop standards for the use Foster OHS engagement of equipment and raw among workers Write an annual report on materials OHS activities Operational Investigate work accidents Conduct studies and research Inform workers into technical safety problems Manage work accident files Train workers in safe work Carry out risk analysis Methods Ensure that OHS policies and procedures are correctly Meet with workers to applied discuss OHSCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  23. 23. Impact Rung No. Examples 7 Improvements of health (1) Reduction of stress related sick leave 6 Reduction in incidents (5) Reported incidents 5 Reduction of exposure 3 Reduction in incidents of threats Reduction of exposure to chlorine Reduction in lifting and carrying 4 Improvements of the 7 - chairs, workstation layout production system or - change of layout, management of clients. the work processes Two related to introduction of new equipment 3 Improvement of the 10 Implementation of OHSM systems, integration approach to OHS in other systems, organisation of OHS work 2 Change in attitude and 10 1st line managers accepted their OHS behaviour responsibilities, asked for help 1 Change in knowledge 10 Through training and coaching 1st line management and OHS repsCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  24. 24. Strategies • Reactive rather than proactive • Elements of proactive strategies related to new technology/buildings – based on knowledge strategy built on causal relation failed against economic and regulatory arguments • Built on failures • Inform top management or head offices overseas about OHS performance: – Incident rates, – Audit progress and results – Change in regulation • To get buy-in to influence middle and first line managementCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  25. 25. Strategies focused on middle management • Work with them, show them how to do it, do it for them. Which strategy depended on: • The manager’s experience and pressure • The OHS practitioner’s time and resources • Make the managers OHS performance visible to senior management and OHS committees • Audit requirements used to guide management New Strategy ? • Did not mention Regulation strategiesCentre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  26. 26. Importance of influencing different stakeholder groups “A lot of what you do in health and safety is you have to sell it. You have to sell it and promote it, and so we do a lot of that promotion. (...) I think you have to use different strategies for your target audience". How do you know which strategy to choose? “Trial and error, yeah, pretty much. It’s like that everywhere, isn’t it? Yep, trial and error, but also, (...) you meet with people, you have discussions, it helps to inform you of what the culture is like and what their appetite for risk is. I think that’s quite important to be able to gauge and read what the organisation’s priorities are. It’s very political”.Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  27. 27. Conclusion ? • OHS practitioners are facilitators of change • Aim to improve the work environment • Focus on middle and first line management • See H&S representatives as important stakeholders • Influence different stakeholders • Learn from experience ‘trial and error’ • Reactive strategies • Knowledge and audit strategies are preferred • Main impact on stakeholders’ knowledge, attitude and OHS management system.Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management
  28. 28. Questions? • Which strategy do you use? • In which situation do you use it? • When does it work? • What kind of ‘organisational work’ do you do?Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and HealthSchool of Management

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