This article presents the results of an Australian survey into what OHS professionals do in practice. The survey forms part of a broader international survey that is being conducted across Europe by the European Network of Safety and Health Professional Organisations and will eventually allow for international comparisons to be made. The survey provides insight into the role that OHS professionals play in Australia and the types of hazards that they are involved in managing. The results have implications for OHS education in Australia and will contribute to an evaluation of Australia's capacity to meet the objectives of the national OHS improvement strategy.
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.