IDRL 308
Occupational Health and Safety (OCW_Rev. C6)


IDRL 308
Occupational Health and Safety (OCW_Rev. C6)

Study Guide

Unit 4 – OHS in Practice

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Usually, introductory OHS courses ensure that students have a solid grounding in core OHS principles such as the IRS, and that they are introduced to the technical methods and solutions for common workplace hazards. However, these courses often relate this information in a context of separating OHS from the rest of the employment relationship, placing OHS in something of a vacuum.

Throughout this course, in addition to providing those important technical aspects, our goal has been to re-integrate OHS into the employment relationship and the power dynamics that are intrinsic in it. An analysis of how the politics of employment shape the actions of the parties has been weaved into each lesson.

But even those efforts still leave us examining OHS from a somewhat theoretical perspective—what we expect to happen. This unit aims to complete the understanding of OHS by examining how it works in practice. There has been some research into how the IRS actually operates and what workers need to do to be effective at making their workplaces safer. This unit looks at that research and summarizes what it means for people who care about safety, either OHS professionals or workers, and what they should do about it.

Photo of a worker wearing a complete set of heavy coveralls including a hood, boots, and gloves with a helmet and face screen to protect against liquid splatter and splash back.

Chemical industry high pressure cleaning with personal protective equipment. CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

After completing this unit, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. What effect has the professionalization of OHS had on workplaces?
  2. How does the IRS work in practice, and what are some of its shortcomings?
  3. Why has enforcement not been as effective as critics would like?
  4. What do workers need to do to be effective at advocating for OHS change?
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