What do OHS professionals need to know about digitalisation?

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 3 March, 2023 - 12:45
Industry news
National News

There are three key issues for OHS professionals and functions when it comes to digital adoption: the individual professional’s viewpoint of technology; recognising the importance of moving online as an enabler for OHS management; and the OHS professional’s opportunity to influence an organisation’s IT strategy, road map and budget.

Jo Kitney, managing director of specialist OHS consulting firm Kitney OHS, said digitalisation is changing the world of work, and in the process bringing challenges, innovative solutions and tangible benefits.

“For those working in health and safety, digital adoption is important yet not uniform, with challenges to maximising the opportunities that digitalisation brings,” she said.

“We have found different levels of digitalisation in organisations, and there is a notable update of digital solutions in business.”

There are a range of factors that influence digitalisation, with digitalisation both a disruptor (with risk) and an innovator (with opportunities), according to Kitney.

“Digitalisation is a force for change in the industry, and also a tool for how health and safety can be managed so long as the business (and its health and safety personnel) are ready to and can adapt and embrace the change,” said Kitney, who was speaking ahead of a 3-part webinar series on transforming the future for health and safety through digital technology and adoption – the first of which focuses on “opening the door for digitalising health and safety” which will be held on Tuesday 14 March.

While digitalisation is clearly changing industries and provides the opportunity for how health and safety can be managed, Kitney said it can be less clear how to successfully implement digitalisation into a business.

“Gaps and challenges lie across a number of areas including an organisation’s IT strategy and road map, budget, ease of access to apps, digital tools and systems, individual adoption, and of course cyber security and the concerns with links applications and moving between digital systems,” she said.

In respect of human factors, Kitney cited Venkatesh et al (2003) who referred to the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) as a powerful framework for identifying factors that can predict one’s ability to adopt or resist, new technology.

“Kitney and Mapien have developed a Technology Readiness Assessment Tool (TRAT) that couples the UTAUT framework with other factors, industry experience and practical insights, to enable early and ongoing tracking of factors most likely to help or hinder user adoption,” said Kitney.

From an OHS perspective, Kitney said resourcing for health and safety is placed front and centre in WHS legislation as a key element of officers’ WHS due diligence.

Along with being health advisors, technicians, and responders for health and safety matters, she said OHS professionals need to consider themselves as enablers and change agents.

“We have a key role in closing the gap between organisational expectations for health and safety, and how this is enabled and delivered in an organisation,” said Kitney.

“Health and safety are often seen as separate and siloed, and now is the time to integrate actions for health and safety management, for which online technology and systems play a key part.”

There are a number of steps organisations and OHS can take to address these issues, and Kitney said a balanced approach must be taken to ensure the hallmarks of good health and safety practices are retained.

These include being involved in the workplace, meeting with workers and understanding work, hazards, risks and management, while also exploring and adopting new ways of approaching, enabling, and securing health and safety outcomes.

“From work in industry we know that time, resources, budget and autonomy of decision making are key barriers for establishing and implementing effective health and safety management,” said Kitney.

“It is important to identify opportunities that exist within organisations and use these to the advantage of health and safety.

“With the online apps and solutions within Microsoft 365 and five years of using SharePoint and MS365 applications for health and safety, Kitney continues to be amazed at the outcomes being achieved from resources within an organisation's MS365 business licence.

“The power and potential of MS365 provide genuine opportunities at the fingertips of health and safety professionals, and this is the reason for the 3-part webinar series Kitney are running.

“We’ll share our experiences, learn from industry, and showcase examples that health and safety professionals may want to consider and explore in their organisations.”


Kitney will be presenting a 3-part webinar series on transforming the future for health and safety through digital technology and adoption. The first webinar “opening the door for digitalising health and safety” will be held on Tuesday 14 March, while the second “paving the path for using Microsoft 365 in health and safety” will be held on Tuesday 21 March and the third “transforming the future with Microsoft 365” will be held on Tuesday 23 March. For more information please call (03) 8336 1995, email or visit the event websites.