The Eric Wigglesworth OHS Education Medal is a national award made by the Australian Institute of Health & Safety recognising achievement in OHS education in the Doctor of Philosophy or professional doctorate category. 

The award recognises:

  • a high level of OHS technical skill and knowledge;
  • the ability to apply OHS knowledge to practical situations;
  • good communication skills

Candidates for the Eric Wigglesworth OHS Education Medal are drawn from the winners of the  AIHS Education awards.  The awards are judged by review of the project thesis and the applicant’s defence of the thesis in interview. If the judges deem it necessary, or appropriate, further comment may be obtained from the relevant industry. It is expected that, as part of demonstrating professional communication skills the candidates will have published a report on their project in an appropriate journal which may include Safety In Australia, industry journals appropriate to the project topic or relevant peer reviewed journals and have made a presentation at a recognised national or international OHS conference. Candidates are considered for the award annually but the Institute reserved the right not to make an award in any year. 

In awarding the Eric Wigglesworth OHS Education Medal it is not the intention of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety to repeat the academic process of assessment conducted by the educational institution but to provide an OHS professional perspective to educational outcomes that have already been considered exceptional by their own educational institutions and in the state education awards conducted by the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.​

In naming this award after Dr Eric Wigglesworth AM the Australian Institute of Health & Safety wishes to recognise the contribution made by Dr Wigglesworth to OHS education in Australia and to the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.

Dr Wigglesworth came to Australia in 1962 to join the Australian Defence Scientific Service as Safety Officer in Melbourne. He later became the Director of the Injury Research Project located in the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He was the Executive Director of the Menzies Foundation from its inception in 1979 to his retirement in 1998.

Eric Wigglesworth has been at the forefront of OHS education in Australia since 1963 when he was a member of the inaugural Education Sub Committee of the Safety Engineering Society (later the Safety Institute of Australia).  Eric later chaired the Education Sub Committee from 1977 to 1983. During this period the Education Sub Committee was the major voice in identifying the need for formal education for safety practitioners and promoting the ‘science of safety’. 

The Sub Committee members drafted the content and carried out the teaching for the initial Certificate course set up at the South Melbourne Technical School in 1968. This was the first OHS specific course developed under the auspices of a state education department and served as a model for other states.

Eric wrote many papers and was very vocal in promoting the case for tertiary-level education in occupational health and safety. In 1976 the Victorian Industrial Safety Convention, a joint activity of the Education Committee of the Safety Engineering Society and the Victorian Department of Labour, resulted in a consensus statement endorsed by the then Victorian Minister for Labour determined that ‘…whilst there should be …appropriate initial courses in industrial safety, there should be far more specialised courses at certificate, diploma, degree, post graduate diploma, and higher degree level for persons who wish to develop expertise in this area.’ Joint government and Safety Engineering Society working groups (under the leadership of Eric) were set up to further the decisions of the conference. 

Eric, through his work on the Education Committee was instrumental in establishing the Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management in 1980 at the then Ballarat College of Advanced Education (now University of Ballarat). This course was the first tertiary level OHS qualification in Australia. 

In 1983 Eric combined his roles of Chair of the SIA Education Committee and Executive Officer of the Menzies Foundation to convene a scientific and government workshop to examine the issues of a common curriculum for OHS education in Australia.  This workshop resulted in a number of resolutions that guided OHS education in Australia for many years.

Eric lectured in the Graduate Diploma course at Ballarat from its inception until his retirement in 1998. During this period Eric wrote many learned articles and introduced student practitioners to the energy-damage concepts. He challenged the students to go forth and ‘tame the tigers’. Eric considered that his life’s work is reflected in the title of his doctorial thesis ‘Towards the Applied Science of Injury Control’. Although the scientific approach is widely accepted today, it was certainly not the conventional wisdom when his career began.

Eric was an Honorary Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia and an Honorary Fellow of the UK Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Even in retirement he continued to write articles for journals promoting the need for research to enhance the knowledge base for the science of safety. 

Dr Wigglesworth held the degrees of Bachelor of Science and Diploma of Education (University of Leeds), Master of Science and Doctor of Applied Science (University of Melbourne) and the honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine (University of Tasmania). He has edited 5 books and has published more than 120 scientific papers in refereed journals. In the Australia Day 2000 Honours list, he was appointed a Member in the Order of Australia for services to public health and to accident prevention.  He was an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Monash University Accident Research Centre.

The Australian Institute of Health & Safety is honoured that he agreed for this award to be made in his name.