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Curiosity and Technology Solutions for the Unreached: In Conversation with Cam Stevens, Director of Digital Transformation, Pocketknife Group.



As someone who describes himself as “late to technology”, it’s clear from this conversation that Cam enjoys exploring simple and complex technology concepts and systems. Going back to the beginning of his career, Cam describes his experiences with workplace injuries as a physiotherapist working in rehabilitation and injury management as what prompted him to move into OSH. “Right from the start, I was working with the physical injuries, then seeing the impacts of psychosocial risks”. From here Cam decided he wanted to understand work better. “I wanted to be able to design effective OSH systems, so I studied Human Factors and took roles that let me be operationally curious. My goal was to have as many difference experiences of work as possible”. Once he began to understand work systems, using his original physiotherapy skills of observation, mapping problems with symptoms, testing and iteration, “I realised just how much technology underpins the way work is planned, executed and continually improved”.  

When considering the current OSH technology landscape, and where he thinks it’s heading, Cam is quick to identify emerging issues. “Two key trends I see shaping the future of work are the application of artificial intelligence systems. And connected work”. What’s connected work? “It’s leveraging network connectivity and the billions of connected sensors and devices that understand health and safety risks in real-time”. And it requires a level of focus on responsible innovation. “This is the conversation we need to be having in the OSH community. How do we innovative responsibly using these transformational technologies? What are the risks?”. 

And it’s here that the conversation moves to discussing technology and the unreached, which is the topic of the Reaching the Unreached symposium, that Cam is participating in. Cam notes that responsible innovation includes reaching the unreached, so who are the unreached? 

“When I think about the unreached, it really does depend on the context of the conversation. In Australia, the constructor sector has multiple layers of subcontracting, so the unreached in this context might be the subcontracted small business owners who are not considered in workplace health and safety consultation processes but are exposed to a significant amount of risk”. 

Looking further afield, Cam offers examples of unreached workers in remote location. “In the context of workers conducting seismic exploration in Papua New Guinea, or scientists on the Antarctic survey, the unreached is far more literal. Those workers are out of sight, and maybe out of mind for senior business leaders, and be several or days of weeks from support”. The solution? Cam suggests making use of what’s already available. “Having solid network connectivity, mobile devices and utilising accessibility options that already exist in systems like Office 365”. He has also seen great success in utilising social media style interfaces. “It’s about making communication easy and simple to use, if you’re already using social media and have a level of digital literacy there, using something similar at work becomes easier”. 

Demonstrating the huge range of unreached workers and groups that OSH professionals will potentially work with, Cam continues. “Consider minority workers who have cultural or linguistic needs that aren’t necessarily aligned with the company values or procedures. Are the systems designed to support them?”.  

The solutions for reaching the unreached are many and context specific, but “need to be human-centred, think mobile devices, virtual reality for learning and communication channels like Slack; and include consultation with each specific group”. It’s clear that Cam uses his wide-ranging experience when working in this space. “Safety technology is about finding a way to make a meaningful connection. There are amazing solutions on the market that may help support a diverse workforce, and the solutions can be quite simple”. An example of this, offers Cam is “using network connectivity to enable a communication channel, then using it to connect with the unreached, making their needs and ways working, visible to whole organisation”. 

And if you’re reading this and wondering if you need to be a tech expert like Cam, the answer is an emphatic no. “Absolutely not”, says Cam. “You need a basic level of digital literacy, like being able to use your own mobile device, as well as being comfortable discussing the risks and opportunities that technology will bring to OSH”. Being an agent of change is key, “but remember you can defer to technical expertise when you start to move beyond the basics”. He recommends following the National Safety Council, Centre for Work Health and Safety and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work for up-to-date OSH technology information and resources. “They are all developing resources, and talking about tech is shaping the future of work. So, reading their content will make the trends feel a lot less bewildering”.  

And turning to the World Congress, Cam Stevens is excited to be speaking at the Reaching the Unreached symposium. “I’m really looking forward to hearing from my fellow symposium speakers who come from all over the world. The topics up for discussion are so diverse: informal sectors in Nigeria and India, communication strategies for unreached groups, workplace improvements in the Saudi Arabia, OSH and the gig economy in Malaysia…I can’t wait”. 

“I want delegates attending our symposium to know that there are workers who are currently unreached”, Cam states. “But they are not unreachable. We just need to think creatively about how to engage and improve work for everyone”. 

And as someone who is deeply embedded in OSH technology, Cam wants to demystify tech for delegates. “I want to provide insight into ways delegates can explore technology solutions to help them on their quest to improve the design of work and reaching the unreached”. 

As the World Congress draws closer, Cam is looking to both the future of work and technology, as well as the future of the OSH profession. “I’m excited to speak to international attendees who work in completely different contexts to me so I can learn from their experiences. I’m also keen to hear from students and their views on the risks and opportunities they are believe are important for senior leaders to be focusing on. What is going to inspire and motivate them to improve the future of work?”. 

There’s still time to be part of the conversation at the 23rd World Congress of Safety and Health at Work. With participants from 127 countries, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to learn and connect with current and future OSH leaders. Register now

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