Passion, Power & Politics: Where to from wherever it is we are right now?

24 Jun 2020

Passion, Power & Politics: Where to from wherever it is we are right now?

The foundations have been shaken.  We have all been moved by the events of 2020.  The potentially epoch-making event of COVID-19 has led us into uncharted territory.  We have become painfully aware of our vulnerability in the wake of this threat.

The idea of returning “back to normal” is a fallacy.  The world has changed. We will be living with this threat for some time to come.  And it has opened our eyes to new ways of working right across the economy.  By making the home the workplace, those news ways of working require organisations to more fully engage with the lives of the members of their workforces.  Issues previously considered too difficult or too remote are now no longer.  Domestic violence can now be occupational violence.  The mental health impacts of the mass remote working experiment must be considered for all.

The politics has been murky but health and safety has never been closer to the mainstream political agenda.  A year ago, it would have seemed remarkable to imagine the Prime Minister of Australia elevating health and safety risk management to the mainstream agenda by personally releasing National Safe Workplace Principles and yet that is what he did on 24 April 2020.  Health and safety has never been so top of mind for leaders in politics or in business.  This is an opportunity for the profession.  We can use this moment in history to ensure health and safety continues to be embedded in broader business decision-making going forward.

There is a strange alchemy at play in how the politics of the past is mixing with the politics of the pandemic, the pandemic response and the economic recovery.  From the mixed messages on social distancing and the use of face masks in different contexts, to the odd messages being sent on the  application of new workplace manslaughter offences to potential COVID-19 related workplace fatalities, to the power plays of the process of industrial relations reform that we are about to embark upon in the wake of the pandemic.

What is the health and safety profession’s role in all this?  After spending three months ruminating on all this in iso, Clyde & Co health and safety partner, Alena Titterton will provide us with her observations on how we should direct our passion and influence to support our organisations in dealing with the strange times we are living in and to exercise a substantive role in the power plays and the politics of the new world order to come.