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Taking a Micro and Macro Approach to Occupational and Public Health: Lessons in Collaboration and Prevention with Dr Yogindra Samant.

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Dr. Yogindra Samant

 

Born in India and now residing in Norway, Dr Yogindra Samant is in a unique position, Chief Medical Officer of the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority, and community medical doctor, that is the perfect alignment of his passions for OSH. 

When asked about his journey to occupational and public health, Yogindra explains, “even as a student doctor, I dabbled in preventative medicine and then fell into social medicine”. He continues. “It was a long time ago, but I have been privileged and lucky to be at the right places at the right times and met people who gave me opportunities that I dreamt of when I was a kid studying medicine. And”, he adds, “I’m still doing the things I love”.  

It was his experience working in emergency departments that shone a light on the bigger picture of preventative and social medicine, on which he’s still focused on today. “I realised that many of the emergency department patients were presenting with repeat injuries, from the same machines, and I knew that they could be prevented at another level”. He was also inspired by Rudolf Virchow and learnt that medicine impacts social policy and public health policy. “That changed my perspective – handling the trauma of these groups, collectively, steered me in this social medicine direction”. 

And today, Yogindra Samant works in two roles, maintaining his dual view of OSH. “Four days a week, I am the Chief Medical Officer at the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority, and one day a week I work as a community medical doctor in public health, undertaking health screenings and health examinations of refugees”. It’s this dual view of occupational and public health that informs Yogindra’s work as a leader with the Labor Inspection Authority. “It keeps me grounded, and I like the connection between strategic, community and global”. 

Yogindra feels that constant learning is necessary as a leader in occupational safety and medicine. "I've come to view technical competence as something you can always hire and delegate, but you need to take the time to evolve and grow your empathy, listening skills, adaptability, ethics and integrity". He describes himself as a lifelong learner, saying, "I'm always learning with every interaction, to make me a better version of myself for tomorrow." 

The conversation shifts to Yogindra’s approach to prevention. “It can be difficult to communicate with people you want to protect” he says. “When I came to understand the hierarchy of control, the use of a universal approach, that was an aha moment. Starting with a universal agreement is key”.  

And of course, Yogindra notes, policy requires consensus, which comes with its own set of challenges. “In Scandinavia there’s a tri-partite way of working, where the regulatory authorities make decisions via consensus and collaboration. But consensus isn’t necessarily scientifically correct, but it’s the right thing to do at the time”. As a scientist, Yogi notes “this can create friction”. But he recognises that “if the direction for improvement is ok, I’m comfortable, we trust each other”. This speaks to Yogindra’s strategic and big picture thinking. His experience as a community doctor, combined with his Norwegian and global ILO work lets him see the bigger impact of taking that “difficult” decision or finding a way to prevention through consensus and consultation. 

When asked about his consultative work with migrant workers, Yogindra emphasises that “I can only speak from the Norwegian experience, but often small groups, like migrant groups aren’t at the negotiating table”. It’s his view that migrant workers should be engaged with in multiple ways. “We should engage with them in forums and go to where they are. The solutions might be the same, but the channel to reach them needs to be culturally appropriate”. 

When asked for example of this outreach work, Dr Samant shares. “The Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority has started collaborating with migrant groups via churches and charity soup kitchens, to gather and share information”. And different communication methods are also utilised. “During an outbreak of a waterborne disease, messages were sent in Norwegian, which didn’t reach migrant workers. So, we used pictorial diagrams instead, basically language neutral”.  

Naturally, discussion of communication methods leads to emerging technologies. “Technology is great, but it depends on how you apply and use it” he explains. “It should also be adapted to the workers and their needs, and close attention needs to be paid to where the information being used by AI, for example, is coming from. Is it biased? How does it represent and reflect marginalised groups?”.  

Dr Samant also notes that technology can also challenge our ability to find time to listen and connect. “Compressed information and lack of time also means that potentially for OSH professionals, you have less time to just talk and listen to people, and to understand what their issues at work are”. He shares that part of his team’s daily routine at the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority is to pause, mid-morning for a coffee break, to discuss family, life and “to just bond”. 

If you’re looking to connect and learn more about Dr Yogindra Samant’s work, he is speaking at two symposia: Team, technology, tension: adapting to accelerated change and From regulation to application: new realities of work and OSH

And as a delegate, our programme offers many more opportunities to connect and learn. From the Australia Night Event to our in-house wildlife experience, you don’t want to miss out. Registrations are open and now include day passes.  

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