Three years in the making and with the input of 42 specialist authors, 31 peer reviewers, the OHS Body of Knowledge was launched on the 18th April at the dinner for the SIA National Convention Dinner held in Melbourne as part of the Safety in Action conference. Pam Pryor, chair of the OHS Body of Knowledge Technical Panel said that the development of the OHS Body of Knowledge is the most important event in the development of OHS as a profession as it provides one of the defining features of a profession which is: special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level. As Patrick Hudson clearly demonstrated in his 2010 Dr Eric Wigglesworth Memorial Lecture on Rethinking Safety, “OHS is not rocket science, it’s much harder”. While recognising that everybody has a stake, and therefore a role, in workplace health and safety one of the objectives of the OHS Body of Knowledge is to support and encourage evidence-based practice by OHS professionals. The Body of Knowledge has been the result of time, commitment and the intellectual energy of many people: the members of the Technical Panel, the consultant facilitator, the editor, and the input of many professionals through workshops and focus groups. But without the foresight, funding and support of WorkSafe Victoria the project would not have occurred.
In reviewing WorkSafe Victoria role in influencing the OHS profession, Clarke Martin from Work Safe Victoria rated the OHS Body of Knowledge as the biggest and most ambitious achievement by far. “To conceive of a project that required 15 Universities, OHS professional bodies, a vast and varied group of writers and a funding organisation that is prepared to take high risks is ambitious in it’s self but to actually go out and get it done is a very different story”. Clarke went on to note that “it is unusual in these times of rapid change and movement that reaching the end of a long term project can be celebrated with so many folk that were there from the start. Tonight we can celebrate that it has been done and WorkSafe Victoria is very proud of the delivery by the project team of the OHS Core Body of Knowledge.” WorkSafe Victoria has assigned the copyright of the OHS Body of Knowledge to the SIA. In accepting ‘ownership of the OHS Body of Knowledge Sue Pilkington, National Chair of the Safety Institute of Australia reported that the “SIA considers its participation in the Body of Knowledge project to be one of the most significant activities in its long history of representing the discipline of OHS. We have been proud to have supported all facets of this project and are delighted to have now become the ‘owners’ of the BOK and the custodians of its future development and we are grateful to Worksafe for the confidence they have demonstrated in SIA by offering us that opportunity. The Body of Knowledge and its future is in safe hands with us.” This responsibility for maintenance and updating will be managed by the SIA through the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board which is auspiced by the SIA. Pam Pryor, in her role as Registrar of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board noted that “this is just the beginning. The OHS Body of Knowledge, 2012, is not intended to be a definitive statement, fixed in time. Rather it will be subject to continual reinterpretation and evolution as people engage with it, apply it, and extend it by research. Pam commented that the OHS Body of Knowledge Technical Panel had been on quite a journey over the last three years, one that has forced them to think about their approach to and understanding of OHS in general and some aspects of OHS in particular. She encourages all OHS professionals to embark on a similar journey, to engage with the Body of Knowledge and in constructive discussion about the content.