UK’s HSE wants OHS professionals to be accredited

In early July 2009, the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Judith Hackitt spoke in favour of an accreditation system for OHS professionals.  This has particular relevance for those countries and professionals associations which follow some of the UK initiatives.

Hackitt is quoted in the HSE media release said:

“We do believe that there is a need for an accreditation system within the competency framework for health and safety professionals. We have no interest in HSE directly controlling or regulating such a scheme, but we are very keen to ensure that all professional bodies who establish an accreditation scheme do so in a way that measures competence in practice, not just acquired knowledge.

“Accreditation must include continuing professional development as a requirement as well as a means of sanction, with real teeth, for anyone who acts unethically in their professional activities – including providing inappropriate advice or guidance.”

She said that those involved in health and safety needed to be competent to assess and manage risk by applying common sense, taking a proportionate approach and exercising judgment about what is reasonable.

Competence is one of the cornerstones of the new health and safety strategy for Great Britain, and HSE wants to see increased competence as the basis of a more sensible and proportionate approach to managing risk.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog asked the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) for their response on the issues raised in Hackitt’s speech.  The response is below

Richard Jones, IOSH’s policy and technical director, said: “IOSH has long advocated some form of official accreditation of the health and safety profession. It is something that has been mooted for many years, but has never had formal government support, so has never got off the ground.

“The present system in the UK means that anyone can operate as a health and safety consultant. This means some businesses are likely to be getting advice from health and safety consultants with inadequate qualifications and experience or none at all. We feel this is wrong. You wouldn’t have an unqualified doctor looking after your medical needs, so why should you put lives at risk because of incompetent health and safety advice.

“Employers have repeatedly asked for better guidance on how to identify competent assistance, so they can be sure they’re getting good quality health and safety advice. We believe an accreditation scheme will help reassure them about the competence and suitability of the person they’re engaging.”

Richard added: “IOSH has been actively pushing the need for accreditation for some years now, in evidence to two select Committee Inquiries, through our ‘Get the best’ campaign and lobbying activities, and more recently through our ‘manifesto’. We’ve had discussions with government, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), MPs and other stakeholders on the need for an accreditation system for health and safety practitioners.

“We believe the majority of consultants are doing good work and providing a valuable service. IOSH’s professional development scheme helps ensure our members keep their knowledge and skills at a satisfactory level. However, the scheme obviously doesn’t apply to those who aren’t members of IOSH. Our hope is that an accreditation scheme will mean that all those working in the health and safety field have sufficient qualification, skills and knowledge to do the job properly and are maintaining these on a regular basis.

“At a meeting on 21 July, representatives from the HSE and key health and safety organisations came together to discuss an accreditation scheme for health and safety consultants. These stakeholders will now form a ‘steering group’ looking to take the proposal forward. It is hoped that an accreditation scheme could be introduced by around autumn 2010.”

Some Australian readers may want to keep an internet eye on the Australian OHS professionals’ alliance HaSPA.

Kevin Jones

Categories government, OHS, Professional standards, standards, UncategorizedTags ,

3 thoughts on “UK’s HSE wants OHS professionals to be accredited”

  1. OOPS! sorry to bang on, but I forgot to mention education of employers and workers. Most of them have had decades to learn and that has been a particularly significant failure, based on all the figures no matter how they have been massaged.

    Instead of punishing injured workers with draconian workers compensation management policy, management and ever decreasing benefits. Employers need to wear more of the brunt of cost via substantial on the spot fines for any accident caused by proven non compliance with OH&S law. Should they wish to defend themselves to remove the obligation to pay a fine so be it, however like a speeding fine, if you don\’t pay or defend, the penalty escalates substantially and rapidly. If that doesn\’t get their attention and focus them on providing a safe working environment I don\’t know what will. THE LAW IS THE LAW – APPLY IT VIGOROUSLY.

  2. I would have thought that government intervention would be the last thing anyone would want, unless of course it is an exercise in developing yet another layer of bureaucracy to maybe protect those with other agendas.

    A well self regulated association of professionals similar to that of the Society of Engineers or possibly the Chartered Practicing Accountants (CPA)or IOSH maybe, who have developed highly credentialed memberships through diligent continuing education and membership compliance would do the trick. Safety touches the broadest possible range of activities and it would be absolutely impossible to distill all professional consultancy activities down to a generic style of qualification. I would be very interested to see how such a series of qualifications would be structured.

    Then a thorough marketing campaign to the OH&S constituency would see association members with all the right and appropriate qualifications sought after by Industry etc. and just a thought, but maybe government might feel all warm and fuzzy about supporting such a model with grants for research and a whole host of other things they are hopeless at.

    Just a few thoughts off the top of my head for what they are worth but the bottom line is prevention and substantial penalties by way of on the spot fines for recalcitrant employers and workers who endanger themselves and others in defiance of legislation.

  3. Encouraging news! Let\’s hope the steering group provides sensible direction in this regard, as it is currently a complex matter that they are charged with.

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