Chapter 3: The Generalist OHS Professional: International and Australian Perspectives

Chapter 3 The Generalist OHS Professional: International and Australian Perspectives

This chapter provides context for the OHS Body of Knowledge by examining the status of occupational health and safety (OHS) as a profession. Firstly, it evaluates the status of the profession from international and Australian perspectives. Integral to this analysis is a special issue of the journal Safety Science that focused on the evolution and status of the OHS professional. Secondly, the chapter presents results of recent Australian research, including an exploration of the professional identity of OHS professionals and a mixedmethods study that investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the experiences of OHS professionals and the status of the profession. Finally, the chapter offers practical suggestions for improving the organisational experiences of generalist OHS professionals.

Keywords: organisation, organisational maturity, leadership, management, culture, strategy, OHS performance measurement
First year of publication: 2012
Current Version: 2021

Chapter 3: The Generalist OHS Professional: International and Australian Perspectives

Table of contents

1 Introduction
2 International context
2.1 Strategic OHS development projects
2.2 Status of the OHS profession
3 Australian context
3.1 Strategic OHS development projects
3.2 Status of the OHS profession
4 Professional identity of OHS professionals
5 The COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity for OHS professionals
5.1 Experiences of OHS professionals during COVID-19
5.2 Improving the organisational experiences of OHS professionals
6 Future view for the OHS profession
7 Summary
Safety Science special issue papers on the evolution of the role and status of the OHS professional
In-chapter citations

Pam Pryor AO, BSc, BEd, GDipOHM, MAppSci, ChOHSP, FAIHS
Manager, OHS Body of Knowledge Development, Australian Institute of Health & Safety

With a background in OHS consulting and OHS education, Pam now specialises in OHS capability
and related aspects of OHS professionality. Pam was a key player in the development of the INSHPO
OHS Professional Capability Framework and received the 2017-18 President’s Award from the
American Society of Safety Professionals for this work. Pam received an Officer of the Order of
Australia in 2018 for her contribution to OHS through leadership and advisory roles, particularly in
developing standards for education frameworks.

David Provan BBehSci, MHlthSci, MBA, PhD, ChOHSP, FAIHS
Managing Director, Forge Works; Researcher, Griffith University

David is a safety professional with more than 20 years’ experience as a director of health and safety
within high-hazard industries, including oil and gas, construction and rail. He is the founder and
managing director of Forge Works safety consultancy and a part-time research fellow at the Safety
Science Innovation Lab at Griffith University. David’s doctorate focuses on the identity, practice and
future of the OHS profession.

Tristan Casey BPsySc, GradDipOHS, DPsych(Org), PhD
Lecturer, Safety Science Innovation Lab; Founder and Managing Director, LEAD for Safety

Tristan’s work focuses on safety leadership and organisational culture. With a career in workplace
health and safety spanning 12 years, he has consulted nationally and internationally across a diverse
range of industries. Tristan’s passion is translating abstract/theoretical concepts into practical tools
that have measurable impact.

Xiaowen Hu BSc, MSc, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management

In her research, Xiaowen aims to bring diverse theoretical perspectives to solve complex real-world
issues. Particularly, she’s interested in how organisational leaders balance competing priorities to
build long-lasting organisational effectiveness. Xaiowen has consulted with a wide range of
organisations in the public and private sector, including mining, oil and gas, construction,
manufacturing, hospitality and law enforcement.

Learning Outcomes: The generalist OHS professional in Australia, 2012

No learning outcomes have been developed for the chapters considered introductory or underpinning knowledge (that is chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15.)


AIHS Webinar: OHS Certification Program
This webinar provides information on the AIHS Certification Program, it’s purpose and assessment processes, with a particular focus on the demonstrated capability assessment and pathways to OHS professional certification
Date: 2017
Presenter: Jo Kitney, Chair AIHS Certification Governance Committee


Safety At Work Podcast: Ep 70:Is OHS management a profession?
Using three broad criteria, this podcast explores the status of the OHS profession – defining a role and career path, the OHS body of knowledge and claim over decisions. It discusses technical and social problems. Whether you should be part of a professional organisation, how to define a professional organisation and determine which is the premiere organisation for your profession and why there needs to be professional education programs.
Date: 2021
Presenter:Drew Rae & David Provan

Safety At Work Podcast: Ep 60: How does Safety II reimagine the role of the safety professional
This podcast uses thematic analysis to review two approaches to safety – centralised control and guided adaptability to consider the impact on OHS professional practice including the understanding which resources people draw upon, and listening to technical specialists beyond the front line and facilitating learning.
Date: 2021
Presenter:Drew Rae & David Provan

Safety At Work Podcast: Ep 51: How do experts manage fuzzy role boundaries?
Tim Neale’s PhD uses bush fires as a context for examining the tension between people in front-line occupations and safety professionals; the tension between individuals and bureaucracy and how to be an effective communicator. He also discusses what happens after a big fire season and becoming a fire behaviour analyst.
Date: 2020
Presenter:David Provan & Tim Neale

Safety At Work Podcast: Ep 30: What do safety professionals believe about themselves?
This podcast discussed research on the professional identity of safety professionals; the distinction between role and identity and stereotypes about the safety profession, the values of safety professionals. Change and the journey of safety. What to consider when hiring safety employees including the role of tertiary education.
Date: 2020
Presenter: Drew Rae & David Provan