SHEQafrica.com founder, Ben Fouche, comments on his blog; If the 2010 Construction Regulations amendment draft is unopposed, construction safety practitioners would have to be “competent in occupational safety, AND certified as such by an institution accredited by the South African National Accreditation System, Sanas…”
The draft amendment to the Construction Regulations raise serious questions about the legislative process, Department of Labour structures, the roles of Ray Strydom and IoSM executives in the health and safety profession, perpetual lack of unity in the profession, as well as IoSM and Ohsap administration.
Ohsap may acquire legal sanction to ‘certify’ construction safety officials as “having the knowledge, training, experience and qualifications specific to occupational safety aspects of a work or task being performed.” That ‘certification’ would certainly involve periodic fees for periodic ‘services’ like application, assessment, grading, ‘preparatory’ training, ‘preparatory’ books, and administration.
The proposed amendment provides that “where appropriate qualifications and training are registered in terms of the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa) Act, 58 of 1995, those qualifications and training must be regarded the required qualifications and training,” but current Saqa unit standards, written by advisors including Ray Strydom and Joep Joubert, are still at low levels, and inadequate to many construction safety functions.
Meanwhile Saqa and Seta legislation, structures and processes are about to change, following poor performance of the training standardisation setup. The proposed definition seems carefully drafted to allow a minority organisation to capitalise on construction safety skills backlogs, without any obligation to the state, the sector, or the profession.
Occupational safety practitioners in all sectors should be concerned, since the Construction Regulations amendment would open the door for Ohsap to regulate a whole profession, including mining, industry, retail, and petrochemicals.
Several mysteries surround the draft amendment and Ohsap. The 2010 draft proposes a definition of ‘occupational safety practitioner’, but there is no a reference to this person anywhere else in the regulations. The definition was probably planted by people who want to run a safety practitioner registration scheme.
Ohsap was formed, according to a report or advertorial in Engineering News in 2003 (www.engineeringnews.co.za), jointly by the ‘Institute of Occupational Safety and Hygiene’, and the Mine Ventilation Society, to register ‘health and safety practitioners’.
But the ‘Institute of Occupational Safety and Hygiene’ (IOSH?) is an unknown entity, and the report probably refers to the Institute of Safety Management (IoSM) or the SA Institute of Occupational Hygiene and Safety, Saiohs.
Ohsap founder and former IoSM executive secretary, Ray Strydom, infers in that article that the purpose of OHSAP was to ‘establish standards’ for ‘OH&S practitioners’ through a registration process.
That report was written seven years ago, when the Construction Regulations were first promulgated. Now, as the Construction Regulations are reviewed and amended, out pops a curious definition in support of an organisation like Ohsap.
Meanwhile Ohsap had asked accreditation from Sanas, while the Construction Regulations amendment draft was being written by the Minister of Labour’s Advisory Council on Occupational Health and Safety, ACOHS.
The Ohsap ‘board’, being close supporters of Ray Strydom and IoSM, not only knew about the definition in the current draft before it was out for comment, but had proposed it via one or more members of ACOHS, which includes former IoSM president Neels Nortje.
IoSM and Ohsap exec members and probably dictated the definition to ACOHS. One construction safety practitioner commented that the ‘coincidence’ was like setting up a contractor for a tender, before the tender was called.
Conveniently, a ‘registration authority’ under a ‘registrar of safety’, ROS, as abbreviated in Ohsap gradings like ‘ROS Cord’ and ‘ROS Prac’, is ready and waiting for the new Construction Regulations to become law. The ‘registrar of safety’, ROS, is Ray Strydom, ‘Ray of Safety’ himself, who had recently ‘retired’ from his near lifelong job as IoSM exec secretary, to focus on running Ohsap with a system of assessments, exams, gradings and fees.
Ohsap is presided over by IoSM exec members like Philip Fourie and Joep Joubert. IoSM is now run by immediate past president Wilna Louw, a SHEQ consulting and training provider.
Registration training mystery
IoSM past president Wilna Louw, of Edwilo Consultants, advertised in Occupational Risk magazine in May 2010 a two day ‘Professional Registration Preparatory training course’.
IoSM executive members seem to have several other ancillary ‘services’ related to the Construction Regulations amendment draft definition of ‘safety practitioner’ covered. Wilna Louw (Edwilo), who runs IoSM, appears to have been authorised to ‘prepare’ candidates for registration.
Ray Strydom is also selling a book to pave the way towards Ohsap registration. Cash registers could start ringing for IoSM executive members if the draft regulations pass into law. Other ‘service providers’ are said to be preparing to ‘assist’ with ‘uplifting’ safety professionals.
Running a sectoral registration business that is written into law, is like taxing practitioners of a certain profession on their qualifications and job applications. ‘Clients’ would be forced to line up and pay, irrespective of value or service received.
Replying to a query on what value a registration scheme would add to construction, Neels Nortje, senior member of the Master Builders Association of Kwa-Zulu Natal, and representing Business Unity SA, Busa, on the Minister’s council, ACOSH, wrote; “I take it you are referring to registration with an institution which is accredited with Sanas, as stipulated in the definitions of the Draft Regulations?
“It is not going to be a question of what benefits we as practitioner will be getting from It, rather than the fact that practitioners that want to practice in this field will have to do it, as it will be law once the Regulations are promulgated,” wrote Neels Nortje (http://forum.masterbuilders.co.za/showthread.php?t=237)
Nortje supports Ray Strydom’s plan, blatantly irrespective of the question of benefits in return for various registration fees. Nortje also glibly allows readers to assume that the registration scheme is already law, or certain to soon become law.
The same line of ‘marketing’ by enforcement is used by other Ohsap and IoSM supporters to ‘promote’ a current, premature, Ohsap ‘registration’ drive. Some 300 safety practitioners, confronted with a rumour about imminent legislation, fell for it, paid up, and now boast of ‘gradings’ like ROS Prac and ROS Prof, or get a ‘not yet competent’ stamp on their first application.
Neels Nortje supports the Ohsap ‘railroad’. The SHEQ professions will probably be self regulated in future, like engineering, medicine, construction and some other professions are, but it should be based on consultation, inclusivity, value and benefits to practitioners and employers.
Ray Strydom and some close supporters will be running Ohsap, under the auspices of a board of his supporters, yet the basis of the scheme would be without consultation, exclusive, of questionable value, and divorced from the formal education and training system.
Registration fees invoices mystery
The track records of IoSM and Strydom speak of a small and dwindling membership, schisms, breakaways, and an autocratic ‘one man show’ management style.
A query about fees from within the SA Institute of Occupational Hygiene and Safety, Saiohs, was answered on their website; “SAIOHS has no explanation as to why OHSAP issued IoSM invoices for the registration fees, nor why the fees changed from R200, to R550, to R750, in the same financial year.
“SAIOHS will keep members informed as and when they receive more information on the registration process.” (http://www.saiosh.com/p/news.html)
The price of ‘registration’ and beneficiary accounts seem flexible and at the behest of Ray Strydom. Yet Ray Strydom is the man that IoSM president and Ohsap board member Phillip Fourie, wants to run Ohsap.
A rough calculation of the ‘market’ for Ray Strydom’s registration business, from ‘criteria’ on the IoSM website for three registration levels of so-called ROS Cord, ROS Prac and ROS Prof ‘candidates’, could involve 15 000 people, ready to be fleeced of fees for periodic courses, books, applications, assessments, gradings, exams, and certificates.
Employers may end up footing some of the bills, and unemployed practitioners would have to pay for their ‘papers’ to get in line for a job, if the amendment is promulgated unchanged, and if employers accept the rubber stamping exercise.
Yet there is no guarantee that Ohsap registration, or any other registration with a Sanas accredited registration body, would have any impact on the skills, quality or status of safety professionals of their work.
Ke Nako; It is time
The silly definition of ‘safety practitioner’ in the Construction Regulations amendment draft could be the spark to spur our profession into forming a safety profession, or SHEQ professions organisation, not limited to IoSM and Ohsap, nor to construction.
If the new ‘registration tax’ becomes law as Neels Nortje says it would, we would all have to pay for a burden that could take years to make any positive difference to our profession, or to delete, or to replace. It would be cheaper and more painless to collect money, pay Ray Strydom to retire, and form an institute with real benefits to the SHEQ professions.
PHOTO: SHEQafrica.com founder Ben Fouche.