Construction sheq ‘registration’ confusion

An assistant resident occupational health and safety engineer queries rumours of ‘professional registration’, and construction H&S body Achasm comments.

Hendrik van der Merwe, assistant resident engineer OHSE, wrote to; “Where could I register as an OHSE professional or practitioner?

“As a consulting engineer on a large contract, I got a message through the profession that they want a certain professional practitioner certificate, to know that the person handling the OHSE audits is well trained and recognised as a professional.

“My application to Ohsap is pending, but it feels to me that Ohsap is a two man empire trying to manipulate the sheq job market to their purposes.

“As a Nebosh qualified person with several courses and many years of experience in OHS, and currently working for a big corporate company, handling internal and external OHSE matters and audits as part of my duties, it could help me to get some formal recognition.

Construction safety body comments on registration

The construction health and safety voluntary membership body, Association of Construction Health And Safety Management (Achasm), commented via chairman Anton Krause;

“Achasm is a construction specific OHS voluntary association, that committed to the SA Council for Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) OHS process in July 2010, when the Built Environment Council (BEC) mandated SACPCMP to look at developing a framework for registration of construction Client Appointed Health and Safety Agents, Construction Health and Safety Managers or Coordinators, Construction Health and Safety Officers, and Candidate Construction Health and Safety Officers.

“We prefer to be involved in state mandated built environment councils, so that we are able to work from a neutral base to share and disseminate critical construction health and safety knowledge among councils and their recognised voluntary associations.

“This is essential if we want construction health and safety to get recognition, and to follow an integrated approach required for Construction Regulation (2003) duty holders, to meet their common law and statute law duties.”

Achasm wants corporate membership

On its website, Achasm says it requires members to;
• be properly qualified in the opinion of the Achasm executive committee
• be professionally qualified in an occupational health and safety discipline, by an approved university or university of technology, or have five years construction health and safety experience, or be employed by an Achasm corporate member, and enrolled on a mentorship programme at a corporate member
• pass tests or complete courses on construction health and safety as set by Achasm.

Construction academic comments on sheq registration

Prof Theo Haupt, a member of the Advisory Committee on Occupational Health and Safety (ACOHS) that advises the Department of Labour (DOL), explained his personal views to late last year;

“Construction health and safety practitioners, co-ordinators and professionals, should be required to register with the statutory SACPCMP… Unfortunately the construction sector is populated by many who seek commercial expediency without the requisite commitment to acquire relevant construction qualifications or levels of professionalism.

“I support the Council for Project and Construction Management Professions, SACPCMP, as mandatory registrar of professional designations, with duties and responsibilities to the Council for the Built Environment (CBE). Membership of other, private professional bodies or institutes should be voluntary.

“SACPCMP is also responsible for accrediting construction education programmes… I support some of the views of opponents of the Construction Regulations amendment draft, but I do not support the notion of non-registration. Perhaps some forum could be established through which divergent views could be discussed and debated.

“The Construction Regulations amendments… are too early, given that the previous version had not become effective yet.

“I do not support the notion of training unit standards… I prefer a comprehensive integrated curriculum of a whole qualification. Several construction qualifications exist, outside the SAQA framework, like a BTech in Construction Management Health and Safety, and a Masters degree in Construction H&S.

”SHEQ should be a unified profession, excluding perhaps medical aspects of occupational health and occupational hygiene, irrespective of industrial sector, however, construction H&S requires specialised management. Generic SHEQ specialists should be able to acquire the requisite knowledge in construction courses.” comments on ‘registration’ editor SHEQafrica comments; There is no law that requires safety practice registration in any sector, and no agreement among employers or sheq practitioners about the need, format, or ideal authority for registration.

Construction industry bodies want to expand their registration functions, based on the Project and Construction Management Professions Act, 48 of 2000, to construction sheq practitioners, but the initiative is undermined by lack of legislation, generally low levels of education, training, skills and experience, which would require massive, co-ordinated efforts by employers to rectify.

Various sheq and construction sheq titles and levels have weak links to training courses, and tenuous links to practical workplace appointments and functions.

Current construction sector bodies lack capacity to register, assess, and develop a significant number of sheq practitioners. Registrars would have to meet requirements in the Saqa draft policy on professionalisation, like popular support, capacity for administration, continued professional development (CPD), and other requirements, including a ban on rendering training services itself.

There are various views on whether sheq practitioners should register, or in one body, or in separate bodies by economic sector, like mining, manufacture, food and beverage, logistics, construction, auto, and so on, or separated by practice, like occupational safety, health, environment, quality and auditing.

Some sheq practitioners want Saqa to list sheq practitioners by qualification, as Saqa already has the capacity to do, and want to avoid initiating registration bodies that would add another layer of cost and effort to the proper function of sate organs.

In general industry, auditors and quality practitioners have already formed an umbrella body to serve the ‘Q’ in sheq. As an auditor, the querent should join one of the auditing membership bodies, which may eventually come to represent safety, environment, quality, and general sheq practitioners.

Nebosh is a UK based qualification, and not generally supported by South African employers, trainers, or construction sheq practitioners. The support that it does gain, is one of the signs of the weakness of our health and safety research, tertiary education, representation and practice.

Two SA universities of technology offer degrees in construction health and safety management, but few employers directly support sheq reps and health and safety officials in ideal career paths.

Employers should check the qualifications, experience and track record of sheq job applicants, not their ‘registrations’ or memberships.

PHOTO; Achasm chairman Anton Krause, based in Cape Town, launched a Gauteng branch of the construction health and safety body in Bedfordview in July 2011.

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