The unique challenges of workplace safety

To feel safe at work is a person's right, and professionals like Keith are working to ensure it.

Ever questioned your safety at work, and whether you’d make it home intact? In an ideal world, we’d all answer ‘no’, but in reality, workers across all industries are facing physical and emotional threats daily.

Keith is the National Safety Manager for The Reject Shop. He implements the safety strategy for the company, which aims to ensure both the physical and psychological wellbeing of thousands of workers across Australia.

Modern-day safety challenges

Each industry comes with its own set of challenges and nuances. For decades, Keith’s industry has been retail. He’s been riding the shifting landscape, from predominately brick-and-mortar stores, to online retail. He’s certainly seen a lot.

In the past, core risk factors included things like manual handling, falls, and mental health, but as the years go on, new threats have come to light. “An emerging threat for the industry is the rise of community-based violence and anti-social behaviour towards retail workers” Keith says. This is a shocking trend, which has triggered recent campaigns to raise awareness, and help stop abuse.

Keith studied occupational health and safety and environmental management with ACU through Open Universities Australia
Keith studied occupational health and safety and environmental management with ACU through Open Universities Australia

More to OHS than meets the eye

OHS encompasses a truly broad scope of work. On the job, you may be doing anything from investigating incidents, to anticipating epidemics of sickness that could affect workers. When it comes to getting new safety programs off the ground in the retail industry, it’s up to Keith to present a strong business case. “There is not a lot of free capital to invest in programs that are not seen as revenue-raising, or returning for the business”. But to Keith, safety is king, and he’s always up for the challenge.

Occupational health and safety and environmental management student, Keith, in a workplace discussion

Gaining an OHS degree online

Keith’s success is, in part, due to postgraduate study, which gave him a huge knowledge boost. Through OUA, he enrolled in the Master of Occupational Health and Safety & Environmental Management, provided by Australian Catholic University (ACU). “My studies have helped to provide me a measure of credibility with regulators, and opened doors to discussions and policy advocacy that I would not otherwise have had” Keith says.

“I want more people to experience the joy of work, without the pain and trauma of injury or work-related illness. I believe that this is a worthwhile pursuit.”

Study with ACU, via OUA

“Occupational Health and Safety is about making sure you get home in the same way you left,” says Dr Kirsten Way. Kirsten works as coordinator for ACU’s postgraduate courses in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management. “It’s a profession where you get to influence real outcomes for people and people’s lives.”

Throughout your study, you’ll learn the introductory principles of workplace health and safety, including legal requirements, compliance and contracts. Experts in the field give lectures about hazard areas, from chemicals like asbestos, to stress and bullying. You will analyse real cases, confronting the outcomes of industrial accidents, serious injuries or fatalities. You’ll learn about their impact, not just on the workers involved, but on the workers’ families and colleagues. Perhaps most interestingly, you’ll look at the underlying psychology, and discover what truly motivates people to take action on safety.

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