Certification of people providing professional services is well recognised with accountants, human resources professionals, dieticians and engineers being just a few examples. Certification sets standards of education, experience, and demonstrated knowledge and skills and evaluates people against those standards. It gives increased confidence and guidance to employers, clients, workers and the community as to the competence and standing of the person providing professional advice.
In the broader field of workplace health and safety, there are a number of disciplines who provide OHS advice to workplaces. Some of these disciplines already have Certification processes in place including ergonomists, hygienists and medical providers.
Certification of Generalist OHS Professionals/Practitioners is already standard practice in countries such as the USA, Canada, the UK and Europe. In Australia, Generalist OHS Professionals/Practitioners have lagged behind in implementing a Certification scheme to ensure that those providing Generalist OHS advice have the right skills, knowledge and qualifications. A recent international conference on the capabilities of OHS Professionals/Practitioners identified the need for countries to establish formal, recognised Certification for Generalist OHS Professionals/Practitioners that had the rigour to be recognised across country borders.
In 2007 the Health and Safety Profession Alliance (HaSPA) confirmed in its minimum standards that Certification of those providing OHS advice is important in achieving the highest level of protection for employees, employers (and other workplace health and safety stakeholders) against risks to their health and safety. The need for a specific OHS professional Certification program was also noted by Worksafe Victoria in the Maxwell review of Victorian OHS legislation.
The Body of Knowledge project, funded by Worksafe Victoria, commenced in 2008 had three deliverables:
1. Development and publication of the OHS Body of Knowledge; 2. Accreditation of OHS professional education; and 3. Certification of Generalist OHS Professionals/Practitioners.
All of these key deliverables are now in place. The structure and process for the Australian Generalist OHS Professional Certification scheme has been developed over three years of research, consultation and discussion.
Certification will be available to all Generalist OHS Professionals/Practitioners nationally.
As the representative body for Generalist OHS Professionals/Practitioners the SIA will implement Certification. A Governance committee will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of standards within the program, and a panel of assessors will conduct assessments managed through the SIA administration and Chief Executive.