As technology plays a more significant role in disrupting OHS, the challenge for health and safety professionals is to strike a balance between focusing on real OHS issues while benefiting from the efficiencies that that new and improved technologies can bring.
In this process, OHS professionals need to develop their skills and collaborate with the profession in a meaningful way, said Tim Gilchrist, client partner at GCG Health Safety & Hygiene.
“We have been given more collaboration and networking tools than ever that allow us to connect to the other side of the world in seconds,” he said.
“The real stuff still matters most though, as the interactions tend to be transactional and sometimes lack the empathy and consideration needed for true growth and improvement.”
There are a number of steps individuals can take to help prepare themselves both personally and professionally for these changes, said Gilchrist, who was speaking ahead The Safety Institute of Australia’s Visions Conference, which will be held in Toowoomba from 21-23 May 2017.
“Lean in and get involved in initiatives across your workplace and industry,” said Gilchrist. “By getting more connected and informed about technological changes to your workplace and industry you can find out how you can best contribute, and get on the front foot in identify the hazards that will inevitably be introduced.”
It is also important for OHS professionals to make sure they represent health and safety at any technological transformation project in their organisation.
“The most successful applications of our craft come true with integration of our practice into the day-to-day operations of an organisation,” said Gilchrist.
“If we don’t get involved in tech projects at our workplaces, our work is often seen as an add-on that doesn’t quite fit.
“This will take some convincing at times so make sure you have a logical and planned solution that is consistent with the projects constraints and parameters.”
Gilchrist also recommended OHS professionals try out a new piece of tech every 2 to 3 months, such as a productivity app, a digital assistant or something that piques their interest technologically.
“If it works and saves you time, reduces your stress or gets you more digitally integrated – great!
“Add it to the tech tool belt.
“If it doesn’t work, it can be chalked up as a miss you can learn from because we all have our own styles and ways of working,” said Gilchrist.
More generally, he said there will be a vast increase in screen-based work, which is routine in nature, being taken off peoples’ hands – and given to a computer program.
This change has already started to change the way that companies compile and report statistics through the use of bespoke software, said Gilchrist.
“For hands-on work, we will continue to see a shift towards automation where the available technology has passed through its initial versions and becomes an affordable reality for many organisations,” he said.
“Market leaders and early adopters have already jumped on board to lead the charge.
“There are parallels here to the way Tesla is using their sales of high end sports cars to fund the research and development into affordable electric cars for the rest of us.”
Things are not going to slow down, according to Gilchrist, who said that the volume of work and production is only going to increase.
“It is startling to review and see what can be completed in a single day when compared to 15, 25 and 50 years ago,” he said.
“Professionals in all fields are going to be expected to produce at meteoric rates.”
Gilchrist will speak at the Safety Institute of Australia (Queensland Branch) 25th Annual Occupational Health and Safety Visions Conference, which will be held in Toowoomba from 21-23 May 2017. For the full interview with Gilchrist, see the next edition of OHS Professional magazine.