Free OH&S Text - Service Economy Focused
Learning about occupational health and safety has long been a part of many post-secondary programs—from those teaching human resources to nursing to technical training. Everyone who operates within the work force should have knowledge that will ensure they are safe on the job.
“Everyone who operates within the work force should have knowledge that will ensure they are safe on the job.”
Bob Barnetson and Jason Foster both have a background in the field—and saw a need for a new textbook that would be available as an Open Educational Resource (OER). Barnetson, an associate professor of labour relations at Athabasca University, says that not only will the textbook save students and institutions money—the commercial textbook used in most Canadian Occupational Health and Safety courses is $150—it will contain information that is more relevant for students.
Barnetson and Foster had long discussed creating a textbook that would address issues of relevance to Canadian students. So, when they saw the call for proposals from the Campus Alberta Open Educational Resources Initiative, they knew their project was a good fit. The funding allowed Barnetson, and Foster, also a professor, to take time off teaching in order to write the book.
Barnetson says they started the project by ensuring they covered the basic and important safety information that would be sufficient for Certified Human Resource Professional designation, which is required for human resource practitioners. Then, they supplemented those basics with information that reflects the current job market in Canada.
“Looking at the existing health and safety texts, most of them are based around the standard employment relationship—kind of the blue collar job that health and safety regulations developed around,” says Barnetson. “But what we’ve seen over the last 40 years is a shift toward the service economy. And those jobs are frequently precarious—characterized by low wages or high levels of job insecurity or limited access to statutory rights.”
Barnetson and Foster used that knowledge to ensure each chapter of the book aims to engage learners with the kinds of jobs people actually have in Canada, and the types of injuries more prevalent in these types of jobs. Many commercial textbooks also fail to address the role of gender when looking at health and safety issues. Machinery and work stations tend to be designed with men in mind, while protective harnesses rarely fit women properly and the greater social reproductive role women tend to shoulder can create unique workplace hazards. The textbook will address these gender issues.
Barnetson and Foster are also researching how media reports of injuries skew society’s judgement of what types of jobs are dangerous and the common injuries that happen. Generally the media only reports on fatal injuries that happen to men, when in fact most injuries are not fatal and many happen to women, says Barnetson. He made sure this information was included in the textbook, which will be available for free to learners, institutes and the general public through the Athabasca University Press.
The textbook will be available for free to learners, institutes and the general public through the Athabasca University Press"
Another unique aspect of the book is its focus on empowering workers rather than providing information to managers, which is often the case with health and safety textbooks. “We don’t just tell students what their rights are—the right to refuse, to be safe, to know the hazards of a workplace—we tell them how they can actually exercise their rights in the workplace,” says Barnetson.
Barnetson is excited for the opportunity to critically look at the workplace resulting in a textbook he believes will be specific to the challenges faced by workers in Canada. It’s meant to be a resource that will empower individuals to ensure they are as safe and productive as possible no matter where they are employed.
“It’s meant to be a resource that will empower individuals to ensure they are as safe and productive as possible no matter where they are employed.”
- by Caroline Barlott