Australia is not immune to the worldwide trend towards more ethical consumerism – but while consumers and businesses alike are becoming more interested in learning about the journey a product or service has been through before being sold to the public, there is still not much information available about the OHS practices implicated in this journey. Research is now shining a spotlight on this issue.

To talk about this is to talk about "supply chains." Supply chains are the sequences of contractual arrangements that lead to the provision of any good and/or service. Essentially, they encompass all activities and transformations that a product or service goes through to get from its original state to end-user.

Currently, the varying safety practices that take place within such a journey are mostly hidden from the general public, regulators and even other businesses located up or down stream within the same supply chain.

Michael Smith and Greg Cain from Victoria University's Institute for Supply Chain and Logsitics are leading a research team to change this, by developing a tool that will make these safety practices more transparent.

Such a tool will allow participants within the same supply chain to identify OHS risks up or down stream from them and propose initiatives to counter these. In fostering a holistic approach to supply chain OHS, greater positive change can be achieved. After all, the power of the supply chain is greater than the sum of its parts.

These businesses, together with consumers and regulators, will then be able to work together to address OHS issues as they occur.

Where to next?

So far, this research team has produced an initial Evidence Review,  reporting on the tools, approaches, techniques, mechanisms, and frameworks that currently address workplace health and safety risk management associated with supply chains.

The report presents these findings in three key sets (auditing instruments, regulation/legislation, and supply chain risk management tools), but notes that there are no existing tools that span whole supply chains.