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February 2013

Stretching our perspective and challenging our assumptions

The 2013 Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health (GOSH) Conference is rapidly approaching. GOSH, which is a joint effort of Oregon OSHA and the Columbia-Willamette Chapter of the ASSE, is an opportunity to sharpen our skills in promoting workplace health and safety.

Whether you are a relative newcomer or a seasoned safety and health professional, GOSH provides workshops and exhibits that are worth your time. Like the regional conferences we support around the state every year, GOSH includes a good deal of practical content, provided by others who have faced the same challenges you face in making workplace health and safety a reality.

I encourage those who attend GOSH to take an extra step this year as well. We all have a tendency to gravitate toward those perspectives with which we agree and are most comfortable. It's not a new problem, of course. But one of the side effects of the shift from the public forum to the social network appears to be that too often we end up talking to those who agree with us, rather than talking – and listening – to those who may have a different perspective.

As you attend GOSH this year, or however you choose to build upon your existing skills, I'd encourage you to stretch a bit. Attend a session where the speaker's perspective is different from yours in some basic ways. Check out a booth that emphasizes an aspect of worker health and safety about which you may have some doubts.

I have my own pet peeves and blind spots, so this challenge is as much for myself as all of you. But if we really are to learn from one another, we need to spend some time engaging with those who are absolutely convinced that a different approach is better. And we need to challenge the assumptions on which our own beliefs are based.

Does that necessarily mean that we will change how we view things? Maybe. But maybe not. Even if we don't change our minds, our perspective on the issues will be better informed and more complete. That can never hurt. And we may just learn something.

See you in the exhibit hall.

Michael Wood
Oregon OSHA Administrator

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