Posted on: July 15, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 3
Construction health and safty registration is regulated, but partial, postponed, near impossible, expensive, and subject to a Competition Commission exemption application that had already failed twice.
Construction health and safety registration is regulated, but partial, postponed, near impossible, expensive, and subject to a Competition Commission exemption application that had already failed twice.

I received an IoSM letter on “Registration for Occupational Safety Professionals,” promoting OHSAP safety registration, by the ‘Occupational Safety Professional Council (OSPC)’.

Reading through the letter, it made me think of the time the Israelites wanted a king, and despite the prophet’s best efforts to talk some sense into them, the Israelites continued to insist that a king is what will make all the difference.

Boy, was the Israelites wrong about that one!

Just ask Uriah who was sent off to war by King David to get killed so that his majesty could marry Bathsheba, Uriah’s beautiful wife. Uriah is probably still trying to get that knife out of his back.

Well, I’m getting that “here we go again” feeling.

The Case for Registration – Not!

In this letter, under the heading “The Case for Registration”, the writer mentions that “Safety registration or accreditation of an organization or individual is a very good way to evaluate the capabilities of the organization or the individual and to make a call as to the ability of the organization or individual to operate at a given level.”

Now I must admit that this looks good on paper, but in reality this is not the case.

Reality vs Window Dressing

Consider this little case study. The other day during an audit training exercise at a company that has just received OHSAS 18001 certification, the trainee auditors asked to see a risk assessment. There was no risk assessment.

How could a company run an OHS management system, or certify to a global safety standard, without risk assessment? It was soon revealed that their OHSAS certification did not reflect their management quality, but rather their ability to select a useless certification body that sells window dressing.

Some certification bodies sell certificates worth less than the laser ink it is printed in. I know of some cases where OHSAS 18001 ‘audits’ are done by a certification body for show, while real audits, that are used to guide management decisions, are done later, by someone else.

Certification Assumes Credibility

What is the difference between ISO/OHSAS certification bodies and OHSAP, or any other OHS practitioner registration bodies that will surely follow?

The promoters of OHSAP will probably say that OHSAP will never do this that and the other thing but the reality is this – If one OHS practitioner registration body starts putting money before integrity, the whole system is compromised. And as you know, I’m already asking a few questions about the OHSAP process – and judging by the emails I receive, it’s making a few people uncomfortable.

Engineers sign off on slabs that collapse, doctors are sued for malpractice, guards collude in zama zama syndicates, yet they are all registered somewhere. Not many engineers have ever been scrapped from the engineering roll. OHSAP and the other schemes could go the same way as these certification bodies.

And Then the Fire-Argument

The writer of the letter goes into what I call the fire-argument. Yes, if others jump in to the fire, why don’t we also get it over and done with. No need to use the brain – lets just jump.

In my opinion, the problem with this argument is that the countries referred to in the letter, (USA, Canada, UK, Australia) are on a totally different safety legislation, skills, enforcement and practice developmental plane than South Africa. In our country, we need to concentrate on skills development. A registration process does not produce skills – not even after a 2-day ” registration preparation” course.

The construction industry has until now, required more OHS practitioners than it has the ability to produce, hence the perception that OHS practitioners don’t know what they’re doing.

Just look at what we did to our country’s Matric certificate, and now we want to implement a registration process for OHS practitioners. It is only through skills development that we will improve the credibility of this profession.

Again from the letter: “Using OHS registered practitioners promises to reduce the activities of fly-by-night, unprofessional and claimed “qualified ” OHS people..” No, what I think will be more likely to happen is that employers will tend to just hire the “standard” because this is cheaper than to invest in, and to develop the OHS skills needed to sustain and create the credibility we are after.

OHSAP Apocalypse

The day after OHSAP safety registration. After promulgation of the little phrase, ‘be registered’, in the Construction Regulations amendment, this is what I fear will happen:

Boss: Hey Ken, we got that huge construction contract, please hire me 15 ROSPrac’s as per the requirements.

Ken: Umm, Boss we have a problem, there are no more ROSPracs to hire, I’m sorry.

Boss: What! Are you saying that we are going to loose this contract because YOU can’t get me enough ROSPracs? How did this happen?

Ken: Boss, the problem is that nobody can pass the bloody safety registration test and now every construction company is chasing those practitioners that has got ROSPrac. Their salaries are now sky-high because of that. We cant afford them on the project budget.

Boss: But Ken, I thought you were the one that said this safety registration thing is the way to go? Didn’t you force every-one to go register?

Ken: Boss, I thought this was the best way. The guys I employed were a bunch of idiots and I thought this is a good way to get and keep the company idiot free.

Boss: Get us registered safety idiots, or get our safety idiots registered. Find a registrar, or set up our own registrar. We will not lose this contract.

Something Has Got To Give

The construction industry is not known for humoring bull. The intent of the sponsors of the phrase tucked away in the safety practitioner definition, has not escaped the collective notice of construction industry leaders.

Somewhere a OHS practitioner registration body will be found to make the safety registration test easier and produce more ROSH Pracs. At a cost, of course.

That will herald the official launch of the Strydom-tax, when we start to pay something. For nothing.


3 People reacted on this

  1. For various reasons I registered some years ago, with the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM)in London and hold full membership.
    They are an extremely professional institute holding their members “to book” for any “sins” which they may commit in the name of safety.
    Level of membership with this institute depends entirely upon proof of years of experience in the safety industry, background, skills and of course, level of study in the safety areana.
    Besides recieving a monthly newsletter and a magazine called Health & Safety at Work (HSW) from the IIRSM, members also have access to a safety website, are able to send any questions they might have to experts in the safety field and recieve prompt responses.
    Any organization wishing to establish themselves as a registration body for H&S in SA, should do some research and at least investigate institutes such as this.

  2. Good day Ben and all others,
    I could not help noticing the surreptitious dig at me so I am compelled to reply.
    Firstly, let me ask you, Ben, a straight question, “Are you against Registration of Safety Personnel?” A simple yes or no will suffice! (and a short FEASIBLE explanation)
    Secondly, please supply me with the name of the Company that you speak about in your “Reality vs Window Dressing” section. It is my duty as, a) a citizen, b) a professional and c) a certified auditor, to report this matter and ensure the Company and the Lead Auditor are investigated. If there were no HIRA’s then the auditor obviously did not obtain objective evidence as would be required. And on that matter, all the other Companies and Certification Bodies you talk about. If there is skulduggery involved we need to root it out. It’s no use to only complain, we must act!!! If you have not done anything about it yourself, then you remind me of the hypocrites who pay Traffic Officials bribes and then complain about corruption.
    Thirdly, all 4 of my “Safety Officers” started from scratch with me. 2 were school leavers (white) and 2 were clerks (black) within the Company. I have developed their skills over the past; 4 years with 1 clerk, 3 years with the other clerk and 1 school leaver and 2 years with the other school leaver, via short courses and practical mentorship with myself. Of course it’s about skills development, and CONTINUAL development!!! Is this not what Registration is all about???
    Lastly, my call for one single body (authority) to manage Registration is to eliminate the scenario you paint about “somewhere an OHS Practitioner registration body will be found to make the test easier and produce more ROSPracs. At a cost, of course.” in your “Something has got to give” section. Question – would you use the body mentioned above? Simple yes or no, please.
    As a matter of interest, I doubt that there will ever be a contract that will require 15 ROSPracs at the same time. One, or maybe two, will suffice and the balance could be ROSCords, all managed by the ROSProf at Head Office. In old terms this would be Chief Safety Officer, Senior Safety Officer and Junior Safety Officer. Your sarcasm and exaggeration is not conducive to the seriousness the matter deserves.
    To end let me state this; to become a First World country, like the 4 you mention, starts with us, the citizens with professionalism and personal development as a critical criteria.

  3. Hallo Ken

    Sorry for the late reply.

    Let me just say thank you for taking the time to post here on my blog, it is much appreciated.

    To answer your questions. I’m not against the registration of safety professionals.

    I have a problem with the OHSAP process and some of the people involved, but I think that must be obvious.

    If OHSAP is not prepared to review their processes and the people involved then the only alternative I have is to argue against the registration of safety practitioners.

    I think the responsibility for skills development should be the employer’s and not the responsibility of a registration process. Knowledge and skills will impact the safety management system and it is therefore dangerous to take away the responsibility of employers to ensure the safety of their employees.

    I agree with you that one body should be responsible for registration across all sectors. OHSAP is not the answer at this moment and I think I’m quite clear on where I stand on the issue.

    I apologise for the sarcasm and exaggeration.

    I however want to assure you that if I did not think this issue important I would not have taken the time to write about the registration issue.

    Once again Ken I want to thank you for taking the time to comment and voicing your opinion.

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