IDRL 308 ? Occupational Health and Safety is a three-credit course offered by AU’s Centre for Work and Community Studies. This course ?examines issues of life and death on the job within their political and economic context.?
Dr. Bob Barnetson explains that ?the risk of workplace injury is typically thought to be minimal, unavoidable and acceptable. Consequently, safety should only be improved where the benefits exceed the costs. IDRL 308 asks students to question these premises, starting from the basis that the most important consequences of injury are not economic?they are the maiming and killing of workers.?
And workplace accidents are far more frequent than many people assume: ?in 2003, six hundred and thirty thousand Canadian adults were injured on the job severely enough to limit their activity,? Dr. Barnetson says. ?Approximately 300,000 of these injured workers required time off to recover. This is, in fact, a serious underestimation of actual workplace injury levels due to reporting effects.
?IDRL 308 examines why this level of injury exists and what workers have done (over time) to reduce this number as well as how the state and employers have reacted to this pressure.?
Occupational Health and Safety caught the eye of student Dawne Price when she first started at AU, though she waited until she had a few 200-level classes under her belt before attempting it. ?Safety has been a big part of my life,? Price says, particularly since she and her husband farm. ?Safety on a farm is something that you must be very aware of. Often you are working on your own, and if you don’t take precautions, there may not be anyone else around.?
Price greatly enjoyed the course. ?I found that by taking IDRL 308, I started to see the issues that employers and employees face, when there are differences on what is needed or necessary to protect workers,? she says. ?I also had a wonderful tutor . . . who was very approachable, knowledgeable and gave a considerable amount of feedback on my assignments. She really made the course enjoyable.?
One concern Price had about the course was the age of information presented. ?Quite a few of the readings were from the early 1980s and I thought there could have been some more up-to-date information . . . They were good, but it would have been nice to have some more recent information.?
Dr. Barnetson says that faculty and staff are currently working to correct this weakness. ?Currency is an ongoing issue with courses,? he says. ?IDRL 308 is presently in revisions. Among the changes will be brand new textbooks and updated readings.?
One caution offered by Dr. Barnetson is that IDRL 308 ?asks you to reflect on your own experiences in the workplace. Sometimes this reflection can be uncomfortable because it reveals or highlights our vulnerability in employment relationships.?
Overall, though, both he and Price feel that the course has much to offer potential students. ?I think this would be a valuable course to anybody wanting to understand the conflicts that exist in the workplace and why safety is not always seen as an important part of the workplace,? Price says.
?I gained a huge perspective on why employers and employees often see the issue so differently.?