CPD in Health and Safety Practitioner Roles
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Published: Mon, 12 Feb 2018
On the 1st January 1993 six regulations relating to health and safety came into force in Great Britain, these six regulations would ultimately have a major impact on how safety is managed today and would significantly influence the future development of the Safety and Health profession. The regulations themselves were based on European Community Directives, designed to create a common standard of health and safety legislation across all member states.
In what has become known to Safety and Health Professionals as the six-pack regulations, it included;
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
- The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
The introduction of these regulations realised a move away from prescriptive legislation, such as the Factories Act 1961, and Railways Shops and Premises Act 1963 which had traditionally “spelt out in detail what should be done” (HSE, 2003, p.4) to a risk assessment based approach to managing safety and health in the workplace.
Importantly the introduction of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) required employers to “appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions” (HMSO, 1992, p.3). Arguably the MHSWR focused many employers attention on the need to employ Safety and Health Practitioners in some capacity; this in turn heralded a period of unprecedented training and recruitment for such roles. Today the spotlight has turned to the future development of the profession, and the maintenance of individual competence through Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Aims and objectives
The aim of this research document is to identify current attitudes towards the increasingly important task of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), for those employed as Safety and Health Practitioners or in professions that further the improvement of workplace safety and health standards. This may be through enforcement such as Environmental Health Officers (EHO), employed by local government or specialised roles such as Occupational Hygienists responsible for measuring workplace noise and dust exposure levels to ensure compliance with legislative standards.
For clarity many but not all Safety and Health Practitioners employed to directly manage an organisations safety and health or consultants employed in this field would typically belong to professional bodies such as Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), or the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM). Whereas those employed as EHO’s would firstly belong to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, with perhaps secondary membership of IOSH as they may have elected to specialise in workplace safety and health over food safety. Other specialists that may hold membership of IOSH in addition to their own professional institutes may include Occupational Hygienists (British Occupational Hygiene Society) and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners UK).
With the role of the Safety and Health Practitioner becoming increasingly important to businesses, the profession should rightly seek to, firstly attract and retain the best calibre of recruits to its ranks! For the Safety and Health profession this hasn’t always been easy. Caught in what Harrison (2009) describes as the ‘Talent Wars’ the profession finds itself competing amongst many others that do not have the somewhat negative associations the world of Safety and Health has developed. As a result Safety and Health management has not been the career of choice of many individuals; Kletz argued that;
At one time safety was considered a suitable job for one of the less able employees. Those days have largely passed and the standard of safety professionals has improved greatly over the last 20 years but many companies still think that safety is a suitable home for those for those who have a few years to go before retirement.
Kletz, 1990, p. 321
One would argue the statement made in 1990 has just as much relevance today. Kletz identified that businesses should look beyond traditional stereotypical boundaries “perhaps companies will allocate more of their best people to safety and loss prevention when they realise that the right sort of person will not just worry about hard hats and tripping hazards.”(Kletz, 1990, p.321) From the latter part of this statement one conjures up the traditional view of the safety person as being a solitary policeman type figure in the workplace.
This outdated view of how Safety and Health Practitioners work still contributes to the negative image of the profession held by certain sections of the national press, a number of which have wasted little time in publicising stories that have more to do with poor or ineffective management than improving actual workplace safety and health? In possibly the most widely carried story; the BBC including many national newspapers reported “a head teacher has bought safety goggles for his pupils to wear when they play conkers in the playground” (BBC, 2004, p.1). Although the decision to purchase the goggles was taken by the schools headmaster, when it came to reporting the story it became another example of health and safety gone mad! The press on this occasion preferring not to question the lack of any professional advice available to the Headmaster and how he came to his decision in its absence!
In return should there be any surprise that the media is held in low esteem by Safety and Health professionals? In a recent reader survey in Health and Safety at Work magazine Safety and Health Practitioners were unanimous in their opinion both the media and risk averse decision makers were responsible for the professions poor image;
Table 1 :Who’s most to blame for health and safety’s poor public image?
The safety profession
If the profession is to break this cycle of negative public portrayal one would argue the modern day workplace requires an equally modern and professional Safety and Health Practitioner. One who is not only an expert in his or her field, but also possessing the traits of a diplomat, as well as a management and compliance systems specialist?
The development of the modern day safety and health practitioner
The introduction of the ‘six pack regulations’ in 1993 heralded an increase in the need for businesses to either employ dedicated or have access to professionals able to assist management in meeting their Safety and Health responsibilities. Since 1993 recruitment to the profession has been drawn from a vast mix of disciplines, including construction trades such as scaffolders and electricians; production staff and administrators to name just a few. Such a large influx resulted in an increasing the need for initial training and ultimately CPD courses to meet the developing needs of Safety and Health Practitioners.
For those first entering the profession a wide range of qualifications currently exist, including the ever popular National Examination Board for Occupational Safety, National General Certificate, promoted by NEBOSH as a first step towards a career in health and safety, accepted by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) “in meeting the academic requirements for Technician Membership of IOSH” (Tech IOSH) (NEBOSH, 2009, p.2), and National Vocational Qualifications at levels 3 to 5. Further courses such as the NEBOSH Construction Certificate and Diploma are also on offer to prospective candidates and are held in high regard by employers. In addition training providers such as the British Safety Council have for a number of years offered their own awards including a level 6 Diploma award. Many have entered the profession because of transferable skills in areas such as engineering, which may be employed in the many technical aspects of the profession; such as machinery guarding design. However such routes into the profession do not exclude individuals from attaining accredited safety qualifications which are seen as the building blocks for future development.
It is important to recognise that such courses provide initial development for individuals either in the early stages of their career or for those wishing to advance their careers. However the increasing drive for professionalism, new legislation technology and increasing movement of Safety and Health Practitioners between different sectors of the economy, has given CPD a critical role in maintaining competence throughout an individual’s career.
To attract new talent and support professional development opportunities there has been a veritable explosion in the variety and availability of courses accredited by IOSH in safety and health management. Higher education establishments across the United Kingdom increasingly offer courses including;
- Glamorgan University – MSc Safety, Health and Environment Management
- University of Wales Institute Cardiff – MSc Occupational Health and Safety
- Greenwich University – BSc Occupational Safety, Health and Environment
For those entering higher education or wishing to pursue a post-graduate degree course the profession has become an increasingly popular choice.
It would however be unfair to focus solely on the university sector for the increasing availability of courses. Course providers registered with the National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) “now number 400 course providers across 80 countries” (NEBOSH, 2009, p.2). Similarly IOSH Course providers number over 300 globally who cover a wider range of industries such as construction, healthcare and public and service sectors. They include a diverse range of organisations including further education colleges, and large and small consultancies that have developed in response to increasing demand from businesses. More specialist organisations allied to specific industries, such as the UK’s Mines Rescue Service, and local authority Fire and Rescue services have increasingly brought their specialist expertise and training skills to the wider marketplace to deliver either NEBOSH accredited courses or general fire and safety awareness courses. In addition to accredited courses most consultancies and organisations deliver numerous short courses typically of 1 or 2 day duration designed to either refresh and update knowledge or inform attendees of the latest legislative developments and their impact, which contribute towards individuals CPD.
The professional safety and health practitioner
The spread of industrialisation and the introduction of new technology has brought society many new professions over the last three decades, examples include social workers and information technology specialists, who are now readily accepted professionals in their own right. The challenge for the modern day Safety and Health Practitioner is to gain equal professional acceptance in the workplace and in wider society.
This leads one to question our understanding of the words profession and professional in relation to the work of the Safety and Health Practitioner. As already identified poorly researched press reports have in the main presented a poor image of the profession. Secondly our image of professions are often linked with the traditional professions and professionals such as lawyers, pharmacists and accountants, who often work in small practices or partnerships in many cases readily accessible to the public through locally, based high street practices, if and when their services are required. When used the public rightly expect a quality assured service from such professionals, based on up to date knowledge, experience and ethical practices.
In light of the growing need for multi-disciplined Safety and Health professionals and the requirement to demonstrate increased professionalism that expected from an organisation whose members are able to attain Chartered status, is the word clearly defined and understood by those of us who promote the concept? What is expected from a profession and professional person in the modern age? Firstly Madden and Mitchell define a profession as;
A discrete body of individuals applying advances learning or scientific knowledge and expertise to provide a service to clients and bound together by a membership of a professional body which assumes responsibility for monitoring professional standards and which confers benefits and may impose sanctions on members
Madden and Mitchell, 1993, p.8
One would argue this particular definition is heavily weighted to the client (customer) and the governing professional body, essentially missing out the beneficial impact that professions have upon wider society and the advancement of learning in their specific fields of expertise. A much more succinct and publicly recognisable definition of what it is to be a professional is given by McGill and Beaty who argue;
The term ‘professional’ is associated with work which is valued highly in society. The professions – lawyers, doctors, social workers, accountants- are highly trained and often highly paid members of society. In this sense the term professional is a kitemark given to those who complete a rigorous and demanding training and then continue to develop their speciality within the profession through further formal training and experience. The professions are characterized by codes of conduct which they require of their members and also a degree of individual autonomy and responsibility for their working practice.
McGill and Beaty, 2001, p.184
The recognition of the importance of “further training, experience and individual autonomy” could almost have been written with the Safety and Health Practitioner in mind. Rapidly evolving health and safety legislation over the last 15-20 years coupled with advancing workplace technology, has introduced the potential for new risks to emerge in the workplace, such as stress. This has required Safety and Health Practitioners to constantly update their knowledge and skills, just as McGill and Beaty suggest.
One would also add a further challenge that faces every ‘professional’ besides the maintenance of technical knowhow and that is maintaining the personal motivation to learn. When referring to learning in this particular context it is not based on short duration learning but the acceptance of lifelong continuous professional development. O’Houle (1980) argued the need and commitment to lifelong learning was a reflection of the standing of a profession. Drucker captures the responsibility for learning and the autonomy of the professional in the following quotation;
No one can motivate him(sic), he has to motivate himself. No one can direct him, he has to direct himself. Above all no one can supervise him. He is the guardian of his own standards, of his own performance and of his own objectives. He can be productive only if he is responsible for his own job.
Drucker, 1973, p.47
Another key driver in the professional’s quest for up to date knowledge is today’s litigious society. The professional is more than ever being held accountable for his or her actions, and will find themselves increasingly questioned on the validity of the advice they give and to demonstrate competency to practice. Watkins and Drury argued that;
The shift away from trusting professionals to do their work properly because they are professionally qualified, towards accountability, has resulted in the need for effective measures of competence, skills and service. This is welcomed by true professionals since it brings with it opportunities to establish more open relationships with customers to enhance personal growth and development.
Watkins and Drury, 1995, p.31
A far cry from when the word of the professional in whatever field was accepted without question.
The need for Safety and Health Practitioners to develop both their knowledge and professionalism throughout their career is clear. Employers expectations of the profession are high, and rightly so. Failure to develop ones knowledge ultimately brings doubt as to individual competence to practice. This over-riding need to maintain competency demonstrates the importance of CPD for Safety and Health Practitioners, but has such importance been recognised by employers?
The mix of new legislation, maintaining competence and customer expectation regarding the delivery of a quality assured service creates a heady mix of priorities in addition to everyday work activities for the Safety and Health Practitioner. Educational researchers such as Field have provided some warning of the impact on continuing professional development that legislation alone can bring; “Environmental regulations, health and safety legislation and food hygiene regulation all require training to set standards and often generate further training needs as managers and other try to keep abreast of the implication of the latest legislation” (Field, 2000, p.74). Training in this case; creating a perpetual cycle of further training in ever more detail in an attempt to improve job related knowledge. The challenge for Safety and Health Practitioner is recognising the importance of CPD to professionalism and the planning and prioritising of the right mix of learning opportunities that develops competence, which as Renkema (2006) argued translates into improved lifetime employability in an ever changing workplace.
2 Literature Review Meeting the challenge of continuing professional development
Continuing Professional Development has now become a familiar task for professionals, a point supported by research into professional associations in the UK by the Professional Association Research Network (PARN) at Bristol University who “found that of the 162 respondents, 62% had developed a CPD policy and programme” (PARN, 2001, p.1). With such a high proportion of institutions actively involved in developing and running CPD programmes, it is important to look at some of the key drivers behind such schemes.
CPD for Safety and Health Practitioners has now become a well established activity, with a scheme established as far back as 1992 (IOSH, 2008). In addition to any employer funded training CPD is actively supported by IOSH through a network of monthly branch level meetings and activities that allows members to participate in what are generally free CPD activities. The development of a CPD scheme for IOSH members was integral in the decision to award Chartered status to the profession, which from 2005 has enabled members to attain Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner status after meeting the qualifying criteria set by IOSH. Establishing a CPD scheme is only one part of the equation, ensuring ongoing active participation is another.
Like many other professionals Safety and Health Practitioners are faced with numerous demands on their time from either work or their home lives, all too often CPD must be fitted in as and when allowed. Research by Dowsell et al into CPD found that;
courses made heavy demands on workers free time; 48 per cent of those interviewed thought their participation in continuing professional development put a strain on their home and family lives and 10 per cent thought it was causing a serious detrimental effect.Dowsell et al conclude that for those in employment, having time to engage in professional development is extremely important.
Dowsell et al, 1999. P. 23
One would argue that the difficulties identified are not unique or specific. Safety and Health Practitioners are faced with the “same pressures as other occupations when considering responses: to changes in technology and knowledge; demands for quality and accountability” (Rapkins, 1995, p.49). IOSH (2008) have long campaigned for CPD to be viewed as an everyday routine activity and not as an additional burden, such a statement could be seen as an attempt to remove some of the everyday concerns that have grown up amongst Safety and Health Practitioners on the subject. This leads one to the question what barriers exist to participation in CPD? Research by Lifelong Learning UK an independent employer led skills council found that trainers in the lifelong learning sector identified specific barriers to CPD. Participants who took part in the research were able to choose more than one option;
Perceived barriers to CPD
Lack of organisational support
Lack of opportunity
Lifelong Learning UK, 2008, p.14
Barriers to CPD are not unique to any one sector or profession. Research by Friedman et al identified the following barriers;
Time, cost, and access were the most frequently cited barriers to carrying out CPD. Clearly, time pressures at work, combined with the demands of home and family, make undertaking CPD a difficult task for many, however motivated they may be.
Another barrier affecting CPD participation is that professionals are not homogenous. A range of factors – such as differences in career stage, preferred learning style, individual ambition – affect the likelihood of taking part in CPD. The lower likelihood of older professionals participating in CPD was mentioned because of their comfortable positions or because they regarded themselves as carrying out activities which will achieve the aims of CPD without following a formal CPD programme
Friedman et al, 2001, p.6
Employers increasingly need to recognise the benefits of CPD to their businesses and are ideally positioned to offer greater support to overcome the barriers that have been identified, but how should this be achieved? Francis et al (1997) argued for CPD to be linked to longer term business planning, also stating that companies viewed CPD in the narrow confines of cost to the business without looking at longer term benefits.
Research by Friedman et al (2001) supported this point and argued for a greater link with company appraisal schemes as a means to encourage participation in CPD whilst at the same time offering an organisational support framework such as time and resources to the individual. Friedman’s approach is backed by research by Kingston University Hull (2006) which identified the incorporation of personal development plans into CPD as a key element in the ability of professionals to align professional development needs with those of the employer. Importantly this supposes the act of appraisal is purely centred on personal development and not as Craft (1996) argued used to determine accountability, through audit cultures and numerous regimes relating to satisfying bureaucracy rather as Sachs (2003) argued, satisfying the professional needs of the individual professional.
Importantly not all academics share Freidmans approach to CPD. Millar (1991) took the view that professional themselves should carry the burden of time and cost of CPD to advance their careers, to be recouped later through higher salaries. With such divergent views, significant barriers regarding responsibility for resourcing CPD remain to be overcome. To place oneself solely in the hands of the employer to achieve the required CPD criteria invites problems, especially when training is often the first activity to be cut when the corporate purse strings tighten (Adults Learning, 2003). As a result Safety and Health Practitioners risk having CPD activities limited or even curtailed for reasons outside their control.
As the profession matures there should be increasing recognition that Safety and Health professionals have to take greater responsibility for their own learning following initial qualification, just as other professions such as teaching have done have done. This may only be achieved through improved planning for and practising a range of informal or formal CPD activities. Failure to develop professional knowledge can have a serious impact upon employers and the individual professional, a point recognised by IOSH “the outcome of failing to perform at an acceptable level can be critical. It is essential to refresh, maintain and develop the skills needed for competent performance” (Harvey, 2005, p.22).
To adopt the mantle of a professional in ones chosen field, then participation in CPD should be ultimately viewed as a necessity and not as an “optional extra which only the high academic professional would posses, but in fact viewed by many as a necessity and a right to practice safely and effectively” (Davies, 1997, p.5). Harris (2009) supports Davies’s view in that becoming professionally qualified should not be seen as the end of learning but in fact the beginning of a career long journey.
The rise of continuing professional development
Research by Eraut argued that the continual development of professional knowledge is ultimately linked to “moral probity, service orientation and codes of conduct” (Eraut, 1994, p.2). Eraut’s comments indicate that professionalism comes at a price in terms of time and dedication. This ultimately manifests itself through the delivery of a professional service to an employer or client, where advice and guidance is based on up to date knowledge and competence to practice.
However as an upside Rueschemeyer argued that there were certain benefits associated with the status of a professional;
Individually and in association, collectively, the professions ‘strike a bargain with society’ in which they exchange competence and integrity against the trust of client and community, relative freedom from lay supervision and interference, protection against unqualified competition as well as substantial remuneration and higher social status.
Rueschemeyer 1983, p.41
Rueschemeyer comments support the importance of CPD as a vital component in demonstrating to those that use our services that post qualification, the professional has continued to update his or her knowledge. Rueschemeyer’s comments regarding the relative freedom of the professional must be accompanied by a degree of self discipline, and willingness to participate in CPD; not just for individual benefit but for the advancement of the profession as a whole.
Both established Health and Safety professionals and new entrants to the profession could be forgiven for thinking that CPD schemes are a relatively new process in the quest to maintain professional standards! However research by Friedman (2000, p.23) identified that “CPD in the UK originated in the late 1970s, but was only formally adopted and defined by professional associations from the mid-1980s”. This is supported by Lester who states that it is “only in the last ten to fifteen years of the twentieth century have professional bodies taken systematic steps to ensure their members continue their development on an ongoing basis” (Lester, 1999, p.2)
In the United Kingdom such schemes may now be found across a diverse range of professions including; Nursing, Teaching, Environmental Health, Legal and Occupational Safety & Health to name just a few. Common to all CPD schemes is the maintenance of professional and ethical standards set by the respective professional body thereby ensuring public confidence in both the professional and the respective institution.
What has driven this apparent explosion of interest in CPD in recent years? Firstly one would argue the current rate of technological change in our society remains significant, forcing a constant revaluation of our knowledge. This particular point is supported by Zia (2004, p.1) who argues;
As a result of increase in the rate of evolution of knowledge, technology and industrial organizations, it is shocking to realize that while in the sixties the knowledge acquired in engineering schools remained valid for about fifteen years, today this time span has decreased to about 3 years. That is to say the average period of renewal of engineering knowledge has reached the same duration as that of studies in a school of engineering in Europe.
Zia, 2004, p.1
Secondly the recognition by professional institutions of the need to further develop themselves, and in doing so enhance not only the organisations status and that of its members; but as Weightman (1994) argued, professional institutions should also influence the broad range of competencies required to practice effectively. Safety and Health professionals are no longer able to rest on their laurels following initial qualification; and as Friedman (2000) argued, in order to provide professional and competent advice the process of learning must continue after initial training.
At the core of all CPD schemes is the need for professionals to embrace the much wider concept of lifelong learning. A phrase all too often used, but what does it mean in practice? Jarvis (2008) describes it as a number of processes that ultimately delivers a continually changing person. Kronkol (2005) viewed CPD as a structured approach to lifelong learning, arguably more comprehensive which involves greater self reflection and critical thinking, which leads one to question if they are one of the same. Some may even view it negatively as the latest in a long line of politically driven statements relating to education (Biesta., 2004). Cropley (1979) argued there were two distinct approaches to lifelong learning: minimalist and maximalist. “The minimalist approach equates with in service, recurrent formal education and training in what Attewell et al (2005) describes as achieving certificated training. The maximalist approach views it as involving “a fundamental transformation of society as a whole so that society becomes a learning resource” (Cropley, 1979, p.5). Research into lifelong learning by Smith et al supports Cropley’s work in that it identifies the almost limitless boundaries for learning and promote the concept that it should include both informal and formal learning.
Based on Cropley’s comments the current status of lifelong learning in connection with CPD remains somewhat narrowly focused towards the minimalist approach, centred on formal training. One would argue this narrows the professionals view of what might constitute CPD, and creates a dependency culture where CPD should be provided to the professional, usually by the employer, based on narrow concept of traditionally run classroom based learning. Whereas the maximalist view requires the professional to look much more broadly as to where learning opportunities may come from, and seeking out a greater mix of experiential learning opportunities as opposed to the narrowly focused academic or classroom based route to learning.
In support of Smith et al, Longworth (2003, p.12) argued that lifelong learning is a much wider concept “learning means giving ownership of learning to the learner him or herself and not the teacher – a
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