The Singapore Accord, a call-to-action signed at a 2017 meeting in Singapore, encourages OSH organizations and groups to adopt a global framework that helps answer several important questions: Which skills should each type of OSH employee bring to the table? What are those different types? How should hiring managers and supervisors evaluate OSH qualifications to ensure the right person is in the right position?
This article is part two of a three-part series designed to help OSH personnel better utilize the Singapore Accord and The Occupational Health and Safety Professional Capability Framework, identifying areas for improvement within their own organizations and professional lives.
If you missed part one introducing these important documents and why they matter, click here.
While all OSH specialists are called on to protect people, property and the environment, they don’t all have the same responsibilities. As the profession has grown over the last century, it has become more and more important to identify the subtle differences that distinguish OSH professionals from OSH practitioners. Doing so ensures that organizations have the right people in place to help them continuously improve, communicate the value of safety and integrate OSH risk management into sustainable business practices.
This is one primary way the Singapore Accord urges global institutions to utilize The Occupational Health and Safety Professional Capability Framework, a resource created by the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioners (INSHPO) with significant contributions from Society leaders. The framework clearly summarizes the differences between OSH practitioners and professionals, which are broad enough to account for cultural and organizational differences but specific enough to get OSH personnel and their employers on the same page about their positions.
Pam Pryor, OHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) Development Manager at the Safety Institute of Australia in Melbourne, was one of three people in a working group that initially researched and drafted the framework beginning in 2011. The other two working group members were HASTAM Chair Andrew Hale, Ph.D., and Executive Director Dennis Hudson, J.D. Within INSHPO, Pryor says, there was a great deal of discussion surrounding what to call the two types of OSH personnel, with the group eventually agreeing on “practitioners” and “professionals.”
“We chose not to use job titles such as OHS advisor or OHS manager, as these titles are used inconsistently both within countries and internationally,” she continues.
The framework uses four key sections to address the distinctions between the two roles. The first provides profiles of each position; the second describes their individual activities; the third highlights the knowledge each type of employee requires to be successful; and the fourth delves into the specific skills OSH practitioners and professionals need to have. According to Pryor, this binary is more nuanced and complex than the two labels might suggest, representing all the gradations of the OSH profession.
“These gradations are demonstrated across professional profiles as well as within organizations,” she says. “They range from the person who provides advice and support within a small work group in a relatively low-risk environment to the national or global manager in a large corporation.”
The Singapore Accord encourages employers and OSH employees to use the framework as a reference when making decisions such as who to hire, how to recruit, how to evaluate an individual’s performance and how to develop effective continuing education programs. It is also intended for use by OSH member associations like ASSE, which strive to provide the latest resources and training opportunities. Last but not least, it provides value for OSH certification bodies and government policy-makers.
“The Global OHS Capability Framework is an important piece of work for the OHS profession,” Pryor says. “However, it is of little use if people are not aware of it and do not use it.”
Once many OSH employees start considering how to utilize this framework, the first question they ask is simple: Am I really a safety professional? Here are the nine qualities, qualifications and responsibilities that make someone a pro.
An OSH professional is someone who . . .
- Designs OSH management strategies and frameworks for OSH critical risk control management.
- Influences senior managers, building relationships as a basis for influence, mentoring and providing integrated technical and strategic advice
- Develops monitoring systems and is involved in organizational review and change management
- Considers the wider context of business processes and external regulatory, market and societal influences
- Is equipped to give advice/take action based on conceptual and technical knowledge mediated by analysis of evidence, experience and critical thought
- Is able to extend his or her understanding and control to novel, unknown and complex risks and their control
- Works autonomously within his/her own initiative and responsibility but values professional collaboration
- Usually works in large, complex and/or high-hazard organizations or as a consultant to medium-sized organizations
- Is usually educated through a university or the higher education sector