OHS Learning for OHS Personnel

by Dave Collins on November 14, 2012 · 1 comment

in Safety Training

OHS Learning for OHS Personnel – George’s Pragmatic Advice

Guest Post by George Robotham from

I sometimes receive requests for advice on personal development for OHS personnel, here is my advice. I am aware my views are not conventional ones.

Rightly or wrongly I take the view that OHS Learning is often not very focussed because we do not have a robust body of OHS knowledge to guide the design of facilitation.

I have what I believe are good reasons to consider Ballarat University offers the best tertiary OHS learning in Australia.

Good OHS personnel need broad management skills (Interpersonal skills, communications skills, project management, quality management, facilitation of learning, leadership, teambuilding etc.)as well as their OHS technical skills.

Suggested formal learning for the OHS person

Do the Diploma in OHS and then pick up a Grad. Dip. in OHS of some kind. I would argue both qualifications are necessary to give a mix of the operational and the strategic.

Those not working may wish to do a degree in OHS. There are a small number of degrees in fields allied to OHS that have an OHS major, as well as OHS degrees. Tertiary OHS learning is conducted in various schools at universities eg. Engineering, public health, management etc. That may help you choose a course with your particular orientation.

Consider whether there are good reasons for in completing s a Masters in OHS. A cynical view is that with a masters or doctorate you end up knowing a hell of a lot about not very much. Hopefully a good masters will go further than this. Having an OHS masters may actually limit your potential to obtain some types of OHS positions. What are you really going to gain practically by completing this qualification? Will it make you any better at your job?

You may have a choice of completing your masters by research or coursework, or a mixture of both. There may be something you have a burning desire to know more about and this could be great for research, may be an opportunity to make a name for yourself.

In my case I made a conscious decision not to do advanced study in OHS after my initial OHS tertiary qualification. Instead I studied in areas aligned to OHS, management of organisational change and adult and workplace education. I am considering completing study in psychology, majoring in organisational psychology. I consider my management of organisational change and adult and workplace education studies and potentially psychology studies to be of much more practical use than studying an OHS masters. It is worth noting the foregoing areas have a robust body of knowledge.

Facilitating learning and problem solving groups is a major part of most OHS jobs. Get along to a Cert IV T.A.E. as a minimum.

Try to get along to short courses on safety, fire safety, interpersonal skills, communications skills, project management, quality management, facilitation of learning, leadership, teambuilding, management of organisational change etc.

With any learning you intend to attend check it out thoroughly first. Talking to past and current students is a good place to start. While distance education can be convenient and accessible in remote locations I prefer the face to face communications of facilitated learning.

Suggested informal learning for the OHS person

I am a big fan of books. Going to the local library and searching for management books will bring up many titles relevant to OHS. Also do searches for WHS, OHS, safety, fire safety, interpersonal skills, communications skills, project management, quality management, facilitation of learning, leadership, teambuilding, management of organisational change etc. books.

I tend to get about 20 out at a time and skim read the lot, half will usually be a waste of time, some I read in depth, some I make notes on.

Amazon is a source of cheap books, reading the reviews may help in your choice.

Get yourself a mentor, ask for the hard tasks and maintain a reflective journal.


To become an effective OHS person one must commit to becoming a lifelong learner in OHS technical fields and aligned fields. Practical experience backed up by critical reflection (What went well, what opportunities for improvement were presented) is a great way to learn.

George can be contacted on, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)

George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia,,,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

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  • Rob Long

    Hi George, yes I think David Deborys at Ballarat is on the right direction although many of the current OHS qualifications simply drive people away from what matters in safety and preoccupy everyone with the idea that safety is just about policing legislation. We have a long way to go before OHS quals come up to speed with human and socialpsychological factors in safety.

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