The annual summit brought together over 150 of Australia’s leading health, safety and wellbeing executives over two days. It was an amazing couple of days, full of interesting conversations, compelling discussions, fascinating keynotes and roundtables, and good old-fashioned networking.
While there was a broad scope of topics covered across the two days, we have pulled together our top three themes which emerged throughout the presentations and the many conversations that were had with attendees.
1. Mental health is an increasing component of workplace safety
Many of the sessions focused on how the Occupational Health and Safety function was embracing the role of ensuring mental health in the workplace. While most did their best to avoid focusing every conversation on COVID, there was an undeniable agreement that the past year has had a huge impact on stress, unpredictability, and disruption to the workplace, resulting in the need for mental health to take centre stage.
Many organisations reported that they had dramatically increased support for their employees over the last year, from Kate Hall of the AFL discussing the use of mental health micro skills, to Louise Dubois from New South Wales Ambulance revealing the power of therapy dogs in call centres, to the power of exercise, such as the Healthworks Fitness Challenge. Victoria Desouza, renowned Mental Health Trainer, pointed out that workplace interventions are full of good intentions, but whatever you put in place needs a good feedback loop to be effective.
2. Data and technology are critically important in driving better outcomes for workers.
The value of collecting and using data to create better employee outcomes was another big theme. For example, Digital twins, virtual replicas of physical objects which are created from real time data, were named to become an incredibly powerful tool for the safety industry. Digital twins provide the opportunity to run simulations within the virtual environment before applying it in the real world – however, to use them effectively requires real data to be captured, not just estimates or guesses. As David Provan reminded us, “Safety risk lies in the gap between work as imagined and work as done.”
Another noticeable trend was the fact that companies are now seemingly ready to address the challenge of employee health data (something that is long overdue in our opinion). This conclusion was drawn through the many conversations which were centred around employers’ frustration that much of this data is distributed among different suppliers, different formats, and different functions. This is where My Occ Health Record’s message of centralising data, digitising its collection, automating processes, and taking ownership of the data in order to create a single source of truth gained significant traction with attendees.
3. Making safety everyone’s job requires top to bottom strategies.
The idea that “safety is everyone’s job” is not a new one. However the third key theme from the summit was how many organisations are still struggling to turn the pithy phrase into real actions and behaviours. Elle Osborne from Baker Hughes shared how she has been addressing this issue as she spoke of her experience coaching senior leaders on how to have effective safety conversations during site visits. This included encouraging leaders from outside operations functions to take a proactive approach and visit sites, to ask about safety, and to have frank conversations with people on the ground.
Others shared their ideas on how to get more people to take safety seriously. While technology played a big role in this, a standout was Dubai 2020’s example of engaging the workforce through small skits, to ensure everyone truly understood what mattered. Creative approaches to change behaviours!
All in all, the OHS Leader’s Summit was filled with great interactions, big ideas and provided a great opportunity for people throughout the health and a safety industry to get together, engage and learn from one another. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversations that we started, and to seeing the result.