Mainstreaming OSH in university education

Tomorrow's architects, engineers, health professionals and business
administrators will all need to be aware of occupational safety and health
(OSH) and incorporate risk management into their daily working lives, if they
are to keep themselves (and those around them) safe while they are at work. But
how do we ensure that OSH training is an integral part of university education,
rather than something that young people encounter only when they enter the
world of employment? A new report looks at the challenges of 'mainstreaming' or
integrating OSH into university courses, as well as providing examples of
imaginative ways in which these challenges can be overcome.

As Jukka Takala, Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
(EU-OSHA), points out, the new report is just the latest in an ongoing EU-OSHA
initiative to support the 'mainstreaming' of OSH into education at all levels.
'Education is key if we are to develop a culture of risk prevention', he says.
'But it is not just about teaching children and young adults to live and work
safely. If OSH is truly to become an integral part of business management and
operations, all future managers and professionals need risk education about
their role and responsibilities.'

When it comes to integrating OSH into university education, though, there are a
number of particular challenges. There is often a lack of teaching staff who
have expertise in OSH, and a lack of OSH teaching materials suitable for
university level. There can be a lack of funds for developing OSH education at
universities, compared with schools. And university courses can favour
theoretical learning methods over practical, active ones.

Nevertheless, as the report makes clear, there are examples from around Europe
of OSH successfully being made a part of university education. Factors that
help in mainstreaming OSH in universities include:

  • Working in co-operation with receptive individuals and organisations (in Germany, for example, a number of universities work in partnership to pool OSH resources)

  • Embedding OSH education within courses, rather than making it an add-on (examples include the inclusion of OSH elements within engineering courses at the University of Liverpool in the UK), and

  • Involving students in managing health and safety in their learning environment (as at the Dublin Institute of Technology, where the students' union is involved in helping the university meet its OSH obligations).

The report presents an analysis of all the success factors found in the cases.
Ultimately it recommends the development of a 'whole-university approach',
which combines OSH and risk education with the practical steps that
universities take to provide a safe and healthy working environment for its
staff and students.

More info - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work