Analysis of the data collected from a survey into what OHS professionals do in practice indicated that they are not strategically influential with senior managers and that this lack of influence may be limiting workplace health and safety improvements. This article revisits the survey data to investigate the potential links between the personal (gender) and professional (education and experience) characteristics of OHS professionals, the industry and the size and geographical location of the organisation in which they work, and their involvement in strategic activities. The analysis indicates that the profile of OHS professionals who are strategically influential includes the following: they are male; they have worked in OHS for six to 10 years; and they are employed by large organisations, particularly in the mining and construction industries. The data regarding the role of education were contradictory to expectations and other reports. While this analysis has provided a profile of OHS professionals in Australia, it has added little to our understanding of the interactions and dynamics of factors that might impact on the strategic influence of OHS professionals.
This article arose from a concern that OHS professionals are not strategically influential with senior managers, and that this lack of influence may be limiting workplace health and safety improvements and, in turn, hindering the progress of the national OHS improvement strategy. The article analyses data from an Australian survey into the communication patterns and activities of OHS professionals in an attempt to clarify whether their activities are likely to have a strategic influence on senior managers. While there may be a number of interpretations of the data, the results indicate that the focus of the activities of OHS professionals is mainly task-oriented. Less often, the focus of their activities is operational (such as developing the OHS management system), while a few of their activities may be considered as strategic. The Australian survey was part of a broader international study and a comparison of the results with those from other countries revealed that the limited focus on strategic activities is not unique to Australia.