Using Social Science to Improve Environment, Health and Safety

Using Social Science to Improve Environment, Health and Safety

New on my blog: A major firefighter training site was shut down due to chemical contamination. I was the Senior Analyst in the initial investigation of the site in 2012. At that time, firefighters believed they had developed various cancers due to chemical exposure during their training from the 1970s to the late 1990s. I led the analysis team reviewing over 30,000 documents and over 300 interviews. The report made several recommendations about how to improve environmental, health and safety practices. Some of these have since been adopted, but clearly new information or some other matter in recent weeks has led to the closure of the site. Over 50,000 Australian Country Fire Authority firefighters and other staff have trained there.

I’ve reflected on my team’s use of social science during the 2012 Fiskville Investigation, drawing out lessons for how to improve management culture on occupational health. In particular, I show how a regimented, masculine organisational culture increased risky training practices. This included burying hazardous waste, continued use of unsafe chemicals, and punishment of staff who spoke up about safety issues. Poor strategic planning and response meant that staff concerns went unheard for 30 years. It is a shame that controversy once again forces action when preventative measures offer a better path.

Read more on my blog: http://buff.ly/1AWHdcg #socialscience #sociology #fiskville #cfa #victoria #firefighting #safety #health #ohs #environment

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