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.
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.