Past and future of safety

Past and future of safety

We are living through the greatest change in our lifetime, and the health and safety (H&S) profession is closely aligned to this change. We have an ageing workforce with many skilled H&S professionals who are either close to retiring or retired.

What this means is that we must harness and learn from the wealth of knowledge acquired by these individuals working in different industries and locations.

Over the years I have been blessed to learn from these H&S mavericks. I’ve learnt more from their practical experiences than reading books on H&S compliance. We can salute them for their bravery, respect and heroic stance on H&S. It’s my opinion that you can have the best OHS management systems, but they are not effective without the passion, dedication and devotion of an H&S professional.

Retired H&S professionals still have years of service to offer society. There should be a formal system that allows for natural mentorship and transfer of knowledge from retired workers.

Of interest, Gen Z is young individuals born between 1995 and 2010 and they’re going to have a massive impact on the workforce. It is expected that they would favour a workplace that has great emphasis on values, diversity, inclusivity and equity. It seems they would leave jobs easily when these criteria are not met. Unfortunately, it has been deemed a generation where mental health issues are prevalent, accompanied by greater levels of depression and anxiety.

It also made me think how the Gen Z H&S practitioner will take the lead in their company to ensure compliance and prevent injuries. H&S practitioners would have to transition from enforcer to coach.

In addition many large corporations are allowing employees to work from home full time.

Would H&S management, in future, be conducted remotely from a local or international place? Gen Z H&S professionals would need to have a greater degree of influence and be able to communicate and connect with their colleagues.

There could be scenarios where H&S professionals become responsible for staff retention as well. H&S strategies and theories will have to adapt at a rapid pace. Interestingly, cryptocurrency and blockchain have become the buzzwords and have disrupted the traditional financial services sector. New regulations and legislation have not been advanced fast enough to keep up with this new technology.

Similarly, H&S regulation and legislation would have to change rapidly. Gen Z comprises influencers, who are constantly connected to the internet or social media. Effective communication will be crucial.

Consequently, while I tend to agree that Gen Z is highly motivated by social purposes, we must also distinguish between Gen Z in a developed country like the UK or USA, who have many opportunities at their disposal, and that age group in a developing country like South Africa, where youth unemployment has been deemed a catastrophe at 74% in 2021.

In South Africa, we can expect an increase in social unrest and strikes should the economy not improve drastically. This is likely to have an unexpected impact on the future of H&S professionals as we work through uncharted territories.

The next generation of safety practitioners is going to face many challenges while having an abundance of opportunities.

An update on Saiosh

The Saiosh Virtual OHS CPD Seminar was successfully hosted on September 16. Advocate Raynard Looch, managing member of Klaas Looch Associates, and Neels Nortjé, Saiosh CEO, unpacked the comments that Saiosh submitted to the Department of Employment and Labour on the OHS Amendment Bill.

Please note that the 10th International Health and Safety Conference takes place on May 31 and June 1, 2022, at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Gauteng.

Published by

Sanjay Munnoo

Dr Sanjay Munnoo is a fellow chartered member and President of Saiosh. He is the chief business development officer at FEM and graduated with a PhD in Construction Management from Nelson Mandela University.
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