Sustainability and green chemistry, workplace design and engineering as well as bridging prevention, workers compensation and social security are among the key priorities for OHS research over the coming decade, according to a recent Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) report.
Other key priorities identified include OHS management systems and risk management of routine and major hazards, changing workforce demographics (such as feminisation, ageing and ethnicity) as well as the changing nature of employment and work – given 40 per cent of people are now employed outside workers compensation systems.
The report, which is based on an OHS research policy conference convened earlier in the year by the SIA’s Academy of University OHS Education and Research, also highlighted a number of barriers to effective OHS research by the academic and university community.
These include the lack of a coordinated OHS research strategy, a lack of both engagement with workers in determining research needs and research funding, a shortage of skilled researchers (especially younger ones) as well as tension between teaching and research commitments.
There are also difficulties in academic/industry partnerships, according to the report, with industry wanting fast results, whereas research grants are a slow process.
However, the SIA report identified a number of opportunities to promote OHS research in Australia, including harmonisation of OHS legislation, government interest in preventive health (such as the National Preventive Task Force), a positive change in workers perceptions about OHS research as well as changing demographics and the changing nature of work.
The report also recommends a number of strategies to support OHS research in the coming decade.
“A sustainable funding base was seen as essential for any effective and systematic approach to OHS research,” the report said.
“Such as funding base could be from a hypothecated link to workers compensation possibly allocated through competitive grants and defined projects. Such core funding could be supplemented by special funds and also financial penalties imposed by courts for targeted research.”
The report also recommended developing a “map” and census of current research and the capacity for future research in Australia, whereby the SIA‐Academy develops a register of recent and current research and the skills and capacity among the Australian OHS research community.
For the full report please visit www.sia.org.au/sigs/education/education-academy .