Interdisciplinarity: Increasing Safety Performance
- Judith A. Erickson (Erickson Associates)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- November 2016
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 26 - 32
- 2016. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 1 in the last 30 days
- 46 since 2007
- Show more detail
- Successful OSH professionals must possess a broad spectrum of knowledge from various fields and disciplines.
- In addition to the requisite OSH bases of knowledge, several other fields are directly applicable to OSH responsibilities.
- Diverse knowledge bases enhance injury prevention, hazard elimination or modification, and regulatory compliance.
- By incorporating nonsafety-specific knowledge and research findings into the field of safety, OSH professionals become more interdisciplinary, thereby enhancing their ability to increase the level of safety in their companies.
Keeping employees safe and healthy consists of much more than basic compliance measures such as guarding machinery or wearing PPE. Although these and other directly related safety and health activities are vitally important to employee welfare, optimal safety performance encompasses far more than OSHA regulations and compliance. To more effectively and efficiently discharge their responsibilities, OSH professionals should be aware of and conversant in many disciplines and fields of knowledge. For example, OSH professionals must have working knowledge of chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, human anatomy and physiology, systems, toxicology, epidemiology, statistics and fire science, among others. In fact, one reason individuals choose the OSH field is because it requires such diversity of knowledge.
In addition to these so-called hard sciences, the so-called soft science disciplines have a direct and positive effect on the level of safety performance. Soft disciplines include organizational behavior, management, occupational psychology, learning theory, training, social psychology and human factors.
Interdisciplinarity & Multidisciplinarity
For the purposes of this article, multidisciplinarity is defined as different disciplines working together without integration of their knowledge bases. Interdisciplinarity, on the other hand, integrates knowledge from different disciplines. It blends the assumptions and practices of each into an integrative relationship to accomplish a larger purpose such as improving safety performance. Therefore, safety professionals should strive to incorporate the well-established principles and findings of other related disciplines into their daily safety practices.
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