What’s in a name?

Established 70 years ago in 1948, the Safety Institute of Australia was initially called the Safety Engineering Society, and had a name change in 1977 to reflect the changing nature of the health and safety role and the diversity of backgrounds of the people in it. We have a long and proud history, and our work today is built on the shoulders of literally thousands of people who have contributed to their profession.   

We know that the most important thing is what we do, as opposed to what we call ourselves, BUT just as we changed our name in 1977, we must always ensure that our name and brand reflect who we are and what we do in a modern context. The world changes, and we change with it. Over the last 3-4 years we have been through extensive operational and strategic changes. Our capability agenda is strengthening our focus on building a more capable profession. Our advocacy role on behalf of the profession is steadily growing. As a result, we are now considering some of the following issues:

The increasing focus on the ‘Health’ in WHS.

Over recent years, the element of ‘health’ in the role of the health and safety professional has been seen as increasingly evolving. Just one example is the focus on psychological health and wellbeing. This has had a flow-on effect on the focus of the SIA, especially within its events and professional development programs, as we work to upskill the health and safety profession. Inside Australian companies, it’s increasingly common for health and safety professionals to have a stronger health and wellbeing remit within the business. To add to this, virtually all organisational, legal and other references in this field refer to both Health and Safety. Does this matter in relation to our name, or is it inherently understood?

Are we an Institute or an Association? Does it really matter?

The term Institute as part of organisational names has a fair place within professions, usually evoking a focus on research, and to a lesser extent education. This has positive connection to our work reflecting our desire to support and promote research and knowledge, as well as our work on education assurance through the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board. Some people have a strong connection with the term 'Institute', while others ask if the term is reflective of the wider role we have of providing a knowledge base, overall professional development, as well the space of engagement and networking amongst the profession.

We are already different

Having already adopted and demonstrated a new set of values for 2-3 years, and having embedded large-scale changes to our operations, it’s time to move away from some of the problems and perceptions of the past, so it’s a good time for an overall re-branding. A change of trading name, if we undertake it, could be a timely fit with that re-branding. We are open minded about the result of this process.

Looking at our trading name is not our most pressing strategic issue, but our brand is a piece of the overall plan to continue our transformation and growth, so anyone interested in health and safety – and especially those who work in the field - are invited to give us your thoughts by completing the short survey by Independent survey firm The Market Intelligence Co. I invite you to have your say.

After analysing the results of the survey, the board of the Institute will announce its plans regarding branding and trading name at our AGM on 24th September. You can dial in online or attend to hear about the decision. 


David Clarke