The first general SA Occupational Health and Safety Advisor qualification standard, being written by a voluntary trades training forum hosted by the SA Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), would be registered with the SA Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).
MQA, acting as SA mining Seta and Development Quality Partner (DQP) for the general OHS Advisor qualification, may appoint a training assessor, named Assessment Quality Partner (AQP), in terms of QCTO provisions, at a meeting on 6 March 2012.
Appointment of IoSM as AQP for the qualification was averted by opposition from a construction representative in late last year. Three opponents to a proposal by IoSM were invited to the March meeting at the request of SHEQafrica.com.
The general Health and Safety Advisor or practitioner qualification could standardise a three month diploma course, expected to replace the current general practice of various two week courses.
Training bodies that want to offer the new qualifications, would have to register with the QCTO, and would be assessed by the MQA, or by an AQP appointed by the MQA or other relevant Seta.
AQPs may assess training providers by re-testing qualification holders by written or oral examination and a registration process. However, many safety practitioners, trainers and employers oppose the introduction of re-examination and registration, arguing that a new diploma qualification and state quality assurance processes would be a sufficient step up form current general practice.
Many employers and practitioners are opposed to additional exams and registration time and cost factors, while there is every indication that current membership bodies lack the capacity to render occupational health and safety training standardisation, training quality assurance, representation, advocacy, continued professional development (CPD), research, or administration.
The MQA invited several business sectors, including construction, chemicals and training, to participate in development of other qualifications relevant to mining, so that a curriculum could be developed to serve occupational health and safety learners and employers in all sectors.
OHS training assessor puzzle
Assessment Quality Partners are required to play the role of external assessors. The MQA cannot be a qualifications developer as well as an external assessment quality partner, wrote IoSM in a circular.
However, the main task of AQPs is to assess training providers, register assessors and assessment sites against a standard, develop and implement a national database of assessment items, manage external assessments, and do moderations, at a reasonable cost.
MQA is reluctant to accept the role of quality assessment, but noted the possibility that it could render training quality assessment in the mining industry in terms of its current funding, and charge a fee to assess training providers in other sectors.
Training providers will have to undergo quality assessments, and issue statements of results. Results statements form part of a qualification. IoSM and Saiosh argue that a registrar is required to assess and certify qualification quality, assess work experience and prior learning, re-examine, and thereby keep poorly qualified OHS advisors out of the job market.
However, many practitioners see no need to re-examine or register qualification holders, since SAQA National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD) offers assessment and comparison of various SA and overseas qualifications at a small fee (see report on this SAQA NLRD service on SHEQafrica.com ‘SA warns on foreign qualifications evaluation’).
New rules for assessors
The current system of SAQA unit standard based competent assessors and moderators will be replaced by different criteria for assessors.
Statements of results by external assessors would be made in terms of OFO reference 28-11-2011-0001 ruling on competency and credibility of assessment quality partners (AQPs).
External assessors will maintain statistics on results. The QCTO will delegate assessment quality partners for a five year period.
IoSM wants to be safety training assessor
The SA Institute of Safety Management (IoSM) had suggested itself as a QCTO assessment quality partner (AQP) for the new safety qualification, in a biased ‘options’ list that includes four IoSM front bodies, two construction bodies where IoSM has some influence, a statutory construction body that is developing its own registration process, a defunct financial auditing body, and a Seta that is in disarray;
• Institute of Safety Management, IoSM
• OHSAP [IoSM body]
• SAIOH [led by IoSM members and OHSAP supporters]
• SA Institute of Safety and Health, Saiosh [IoSM coastal breakaway, OHSAP aligned]
• Master Builders Association SA, MBASA
• Association of Construction Health and Safety Management, ACHASM
• SA Council for Project and Construction Management Professions, SACPCMP [statutory umbrella body]
• Risk Management Society of SA [former financial accounting body now part of IRMSA]
• Health and Welfare Seta, HWSETA.
SACPCMP is the only viable option on the list, due to general support in the construction industry, although it may limit its planned training standardisation and registration functions to construction. Probably all of the bodies named still lack the capacity to standardise, assess, develop, examine or register safety practitioners.
However, the MQA, in its capacity as SA mining Seta, could become the quality assessment partner for the new Safety Advisor qualification. At least three of the curriculum drafting volunteers have proposed that the MQA to fulfill this role.
The SA safety qualifications development work group includes IoSM representatives Joep Joubert and Delene Sheasby, both training consultants, a defence force member, Saiosh representatives Robin Jones and Harold Gaze, Master Builders Association Gauteng via Doug Michelle and a secundus, Irca, and mining labour unions.
Master Builders Gauteng had in February restructured to become MBA North, representing MBA SA members in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Training specialist Joep Joubert told SHEQafrica.com that he would support any credible process of training quality assurance. “I do not care which organisation or process performs AQP functions for this qualification, as long as it adds credibility”, said Joubert at a qualifications development session in February 2012.
Ghost of IoSM haunts OHS training
IoSM had attracted criticism from Saiosh, construction bodies, Sashef and general safety practitioners, for failing to consult or represent safety practice, for poor membership service based on the Ray Strydom family business, and for rigging outcomes of former Seta Standards Generating Body 8 to carve a training and ‘registration’ niche for itself.
IoSM breakaway Saiosh had amassed a membership of about 700 practitioners, equal and probably identical to IoSM membership. Saiosh had in turn attracted criticism for rigging Dartment of Labour advisory body ACOHS outcomes, continuing the decades long IoSM quest for state sanction of a small, self-appointed membership body.
Saiosh education officer Shane Lishman writes in a Saiosh blog that health and safety bodies were invited to a SAQA roadshow on re-registration and establishment of professional bodies that aim to register professional designations.
“Saiosh supports the move, since there is no registered occupational health and safety professional body, and no registered professional designation for sheq practice or technicians. In the spirit of the SA National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act of 2008, Saiosh had applied to SAQA to be recognised as a professional body, and to participate in the pilot project.
“Requirements include an invitation that we sent to stakeholders like universities, education and training providers, relevant interest groups and organisations like IoSM and OHSAP, represented by Leighton Bennett, and ACHASM.
“Other organisations have also applied to be safety practice registration bodies. Saiosh have not been invited to any of these discussions, as required by SAQA.
“Saiosh have met with IoSM, who informed us that OHSAP, which is funded by IoSM, and may yet [again] be funded by SAIOH, had applied to SAQA to represent occupational hygiene and safety practice.
“We confirmed that no stakeholder involvement was done and that IoSM could not support this Saiosh initiative [Saiosh could not support this IoSM initiative].” Neither membership body has general support in health and safety practice, and both have attracted vocal resistance and opposition.
OH registration drops OHSAP link
Occupational hygiene body SAIOH, and SA Society of Occupational Health Nurses (SASOHN), no longer support the IoSM OHSAP process. Among the bodies vying for members and state recognition as construction safety registrars, are ACHASM, serving under SACPCMP.
Professional registration initiatives are hampered by low training levels among safety and sheq practitioners in Africa, due in part to lack of employer commitment, changes affecting diploma correspondence courses, and limited local tertiary level safety training services.