The OHS Body of Knowledge
The OHS Body of Knowledge for Generalist OHS Professionals (OHS BoK) was developed to define the collective knowledge that should be shared by Australian Generalist OHS Professionals as a basis for understanding the causation and control of work-related fatality, injury, disease and ill-health. This body of knowledge is utilised as a basis for accreditation of education programs giving entry to the profession, as a guide for professional certification and also provides important benchmark information for continuing professional development.
From its first publication in 2012, four new chapters were added in 2014-15, and a further three chapters were commenced in 2016. These included a very successful joint project with the Institution of Chemical Engineers Safety Centre resulting in two chapters on process safety, Process hazards (Chemical) and Managing process safety. With the support of a Victorian Enforceable Undertaking (EU), work also commenced on a chapter on Engineered Safe Design. 2016-17 also saw the beginning of a major review of the chapters first published in 2012. This review will be ongoing.
A number of topics have been identified for future development (see http://www.ohsbok.org.au/development/future-development/ ) and input is welcomed on other topics and their priority for development.
The Institute has a long-standing commitment to both maintain the BoK and to provide it open source, creating significant challenges in sourcing the investment needed to ensure its currency. Recent funding with donations from Enforceable Undertakings have been welcomed, as they not only benefit the workplace, industry and the community, but can also have both national and international impact given the increasing referencing of the BoK by other countries as well, and add a legacy aspect to the Enforceable Undertaking through the enduring impact of the BoK.
The OHS Body of Knowledge web site continues to be the main window to the public for the OHS Body of Knowledge. (www.ohsbok.org.au) The web site is being continually upgraded and next year will see a major development in the resources provided as extensions to the chapter content, with a framework introduced which will allow input and discussion on the various Chapters of the BoK, by interested parties, including discussion on emerging research and trends. We will also be making a print version of the full BoK, with chapters which can be separately updated, available.
Manager, Development - OHS Body of Knowledge
The Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board
The Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board, auspiced by the Institute, has now completed its sixth year of operation. During the year 2016-17 the Board undertook a review of their strategic plan, which resulted in a 5-year vision statement for the Board, that:
- Accredited OHS professional qualifications are sought by aspiring professionals and valued by practising OHS professionals and employers.
- All Australian OHS professional education programs are accredited.
- Higher Education providers value OHS professional education accreditation and the accredited status of their programs.
- The Safety Institute of Australia, as represented by the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board, is recognised by the Australian Government as an assessing authority for OHS qualifications for the purpose of migration.
The board and registrar will work toward this vision with a focus on six operational areas:
- Conducting individual accreditations
- Conducting an annual review of accredited programs
- Administering the accreditation process
- Administering the Accreditation Board
- Influencing the OHS Body of Knowledge
- Providing information, developing influence and advocating for OHS professional accreditation and education.
There are currently 15 universities offering a total of 30 OHS professional education programs. Two new programs were assessed in the year:
- University of Western Australia, Graduate Diploma in Work Health and Safety - completed
- University of Central Queensland, Graduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety – still underway
Thirteen universities have one or more accredited programs, 5 bachelor level programs and 20 graduate diploma/master programs. The status of accredited programs as at 30th June 2017 is shown below.
With the coming year, the Board moves into the re-accreditation process with 2 programs up for review after 5 years of accreditation.
All accredited programs are required to submit an annual report on the status of action plans developed as a result of accreditation as well as other priority focus areas as determined by Board on an annual basis. This review process results in ongoing improvement in programs.
Currently, there is no collated information on numbers of people studying OHS in the Higher Education sector or of the number of graduates. As part of the annual review process the Board is developing a census of student and graduate numbers to address this information gap. Data has been collected by the Board over a 5-year period but, due to gaps in reporting by universities and variations in definitions, the data has a low level of validity. Through the annual return process, the Board is working to improve the quality of this data to develop information as part of an OHS workforce planning report.
The accreditation process is based on 8 underpinning principles which include that: The accreditation process will, as far as is possible, be aligned with institution and other externally required quality assurance processes with minimal complexity in the application process. Following this principle, the OHS education accreditation criteria have been revised to reflect the Higher Education Standards Framework with which universities have to comply from 2017. The accreditation process also aligns with the Joint Statement of Principles for Professional Accreditation agreed in 2016 by Professions Australia and Universities Australia.
During the year, the Board participated in a government-sponsored review of professional accreditation and is in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA).
Administration of the Board
Professor Mike Capra was appointed to continue as the chair for the period 2016-17.
The Board welcomed three new members as part of the routine renewal process. Dr Alison Bell replaced Dr Margaret Cook as a representative of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia and Genevieve Hawkins and Graham Jackson were brought to the Board as independent OHS professionals. Chris Sutherland Managing Director of Programmed resigned from the Board due to the demands of work. The Board is appreciative of the contribution made by both Chris and Margaret as inaugural Board members.
The volunteer members of the Board are supported by a part-time remunerated Registrar. Pam Pryor has been the inaugural Registrar, steering the Board through the first 6 years developing the criteria and processes and working with universities to implement accreditation. As part of succession planning the Board has undertaken a recruitment process for a new Registrar with Meagan Browne being appointed to take over the role. The Board welcomes Meagan. As a qualified OHS professional, previously a senior manager with an OHS regulator and an inaugural member of the Board Meagan brings a range of skills to the role. Pam and Meagan will manage a staged transition.
Supporting partners continue to be vital to the operation of the Accreditation Board. Supporting partners are corporate members of the Safety Institute of Australia who choose to direct their support to the activities of the Accreditation Board. The key supporting partners are Programmed and SafeWork NSW.
OHS Body of Knowledge
The OHS Body of Knowledge (OHS BoK) plays an important role in accreditation. Initially the Accreditation Board managed the ongoing development and dissemination of the OHS BoK. With the SIA taking on this function, the Board role has changed to one of influence and advocacy to:
- Ensure that the chapter topics take account of priority topics for OHS education
- To monitor and provide feedback so that the quality and evidence-base in individual chapters reflects current OHS research and leading edge thinking and so provides a suitable standard for OHS education
- To engage with SIA to advocate for development of appropriate resources to accompany the OHS BoK chapters to support quality OHS education.
The Board is pleased that in moving on from the Registrar role Pam will retain her involvement in the OHS BoK taking on the title of Manager, OHS BoK Development.
Influence and engagement
The Board provides information on OHS education and qualifications through its website and also answers many email queries on OHS qualifications. The Registrar liaises with the universities on OHS education providing a regular email update, briefings on the accreditation criteria and process and maintains informal contact with program coordinators.
The view ahead to 2018
The next 12 to 18 months will be a busy period for the Board with the implementation of the new accreditation criteria, new accreditations and 5 programs due for re-accreditation. It will also be a period of transition as the new Registrar takes on the role.
The retiring Registrar
As the Chair of the Board I offer my thanks and the thanks of the Board members for the outstanding contribution the retiring and inaugural Registrar Pam Pryor has made to the success of the Board and its operations. Pam was a driving force for the establishment and functions of the Board and she has left processes in place that will greatly facilitate the continuing and successful operation of the Board. Her enthusiasm and devotion to the development of OHS education in Australia is unsurpassed. The Board expresses its thanks to Pam and offers her its best wishes for the future.
THE OHS Global Framework for Practice
The new Global OHS Capability Framework represents an exceptional step for the field of health and safety in the international health and safety arena, where for the first time a number of countries have come together to agree on a common language and framework for the range of OHS roles within the company – wherever that company may be.
The importance of language to the expression of culture is well understood and we know that when groups find a common language they work more effectively and smoothly together. The health and safety field has been historically fragmented in a number of ways, and this has included differing expectations and understandings of the many roles that health and safety people undertake within the company, both between and within countries.
The Global OHS Capability Framework had its genesis in a workshop conducted by a working party of the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations (INSHPO) in 2011 as the group began its work to seek to develop international standards for OHS practice. Over five years the group undertook extensive research and a series of workshops to build a framework which could be both accepted and adopted by the global OHS community. The working party collected and reviewed the documentation from national professional associations and certification bodies to define the role, functions and competencies of OHS practitioners and professionals. Given the great diversity of approaches across countries, the working party developed a new overarching structure designed to encompass all approaches.
Recently adopted by more than 20 countries under the Singapore accord, for the first time all of these countries share a commitment to promoting the use and acceptance of the Framework as a common platform to develop capable, knowledgeable, and skilled OHS professionals and practitioners across industry sectors and geographic borders.
The Framework, which had significant input from the Institute, recognises that the knowledge and skill requirements for the profession vary significantly depending on the level at which people are working, from entry level positions through the range of tasks practitioners are required to undertake, and on into senior management and executive roles. It articulates six levels of work: (Practitioner 1-3 and Professional 1-3). The SIA’s certification program for the health and safety profession is articulated against these levels, and the SIA Training and Development Framework currently in development, draws directly from the Framework as well.
The Global OHS Professional Capability Framework describes functional WHS roles at different levels as well as the knowledge and skill requirements of each, view the document here.
In the year ahead the Institute aims to build awareness of the Framework, alongside the other key components of our capability agenda, promoting the widespread use of the common language it contains.
CEO, Safety Institute of Australia
Certification of the Profession
Since the introduction of the OHS Profession Certification Program in 2015, the Program has continued to gather momentum and strength with those working in health and safety and across industry. By the end of June 2017, 1,344 OHS Practitioner, OHS Professional and Chartered OHS Professionals were certified. The two in-training categories of certification - OHS Trainee and OHS Graduate – provide those newly qualified in OHS to begin their journey to full certification.
Certification Governance and Program development
The Certification Governance Committee commenced its work early in 2017, with initial meetings used to formalise its role and scope. Along with the Committee Chair and Deputy Chair, the committee has professional representation across the three levels of certification, as well as positions for a WHS Regulator and education, industry and business representatives. The group also has an experienced lawyer working within health and safety as Advisor to the Committee. Together this group provides wide ranging experience and skills to drive good governance and continued development of the Program.
Reciprocal recognition with overseas programs
We have begun to receive applications not just within Australia but also overseas, demonstrating a widening international recognition of Australian OHS certification. There is also interest from certification bodies internationally, looking at how the SIA’s OHS Certification Program is structured and we are in separate discussions with different agencies about reciprocal recognition.
Assessment and pathways to Certification
Certification assessment is different for each level of certification applied for. Applications are evaluated against qualifications and experience in an OHS role, as well as demonstrated capability in practice through written practice reports and references for all applicants, relative to the level applied. Personal interviews are conducted for those seeking certification as Chartered OHS Professionals. The Program’s team of demonstrated capability assessors complete the assessment elements of certification. These assessors hold OHS certifications and senior health and safety roles in industry.
We know that a number of people working in OHS have developed their careers in a different educational landscape and so may have extensive experience and capability at OHS professional level, but not necessarily University level OHS qualifications. This group is acknowledged in the program by having access to the Professional Knowledge Assessment (PKA) which involves combination of exam, case study and viva interview to defend results achieved in the exam and case study. Avenues for knowledge assessment for the other two levels of Certification - Practitioners and Chartered Professional - are being explored, as well as Australian law assessments for overseas applicants.
Certification is not just about an application and assessment. It is a process which can take time and professional development. Within the last year the program has provided Certification mentoring to support applicants who have had specific development needs identified in order to eventually achieve Certification. The certified professionals who provide this mentoring give invaluable support for applicants through their own experience of applying for Certification and working in the OHS profession.
Continuing Professional Development
Certified OHS Practitioners and Professionals must undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to retain their certification. The combination of OHS certification and ongoing CPD provide the underpinning framework to maintain and raise the standards and capability of people working within the health and safety profession. The SIA’s CPD Committee is currently working with the Certification Governance Committee to implement CPD monitoring.
Chair, Certification Governance Committee
The OHS Training and Development Framework
People come to practice of Health and Safety from many different backgrounds. They may work their way up within the company from a trade, semiskilled or unskilled work, gaining practical experience, and gravitating to health and safety. They may enter practice from a range of professional qualifications, historically in science and engineering related disciplines, but more recently they may also come from specialist OHS higher education, psychology, allied health, or through VET training in WHS, as just some examples.
Once people are on the job, how do they refine their health and safety knowledge and skills in a planned way and continue to grow in capability? Work experience is critical, but so too is taking some time outside the workplace to learn new things. The roles people undertake and the knowledge and skills requirements of those roles are varied, so their continuing professional development (CPD) needs can be diverse. Some need to review basic underpinning health and safety concepts and ideas, some want to see what new tools are available to assist them in the technical aspects of the job, some need to dive deep into specialist areas, some need to work on their leadership and communication. The list goes on.
This all occurs in an environment where the current training offered to the profession is ad hoc, delivered in an unstructured way, by a range of providers make offerings which may or may not be meeting industry needs. This is not the fault of the providers - it is the result of a lack of structure, and in this case, the market has no natural mechanisms to ensure quality.
This is where the Institute is stepping in. Rather than simply writing our own curriculum and becoming another provider, we see the importance of building a structure which over time will improve the quality, consistency and focus of CPD for the profession.
In 2017-2018 we are implementing the first two elements of a long-term approach to building the quality of training and professional development in the field of health and safety:
1. For people working in the field, we have introduced an online CPD planning and reporting tool.
The online tool allows the user to identify their own continuing professional development goals, monitor their progress, and re-plan. It is available to all members of the SIA for voluntary use, but is also a requirement for certified members.
OHS Profession CPD is not a points-based system, which is seen as too restrictive in a field where people need to take a wide variety of approaches to identifying and achieving their CPD goals. The tool allows individuals to set their own targets and monitor their own progress.
2. For providers of training and professional development to the profession, we are introducing a training and development framework and endorsement program.
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Professional Capability Framework - A Global Framework for Practice, outlines the general knowledge and skill requirements at each of six levels of work in the field of health and safety. The OHS Body of Knowledge provides a range of subject matter content. These two key pieces of work will inform the training and development framework. Training organisations will have the opportunity to map their proposed training against the framework, and submit it to the Institute for consideration for endorsement. Once endorsed, the Institute will actively support and promote the training. Ongoing quality assurance will be based primarily on user feedback.
CEO, Safety Institute of Australia