Going global with OHS training

The Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals now requires applicants to have successfully completed at least a one-year college or university certificate or diploma program in occupational health, safety or environment (or a two-year college or university non-OHS&E-related certificate or diploma program).

Elsewhere in the world, like Australia for instance, RMIT University in Melbourne offers a three-year Bachelor of Science in OHS with an honours year available. Beginning in 2010, the University of Queensland will offer a four-year Bachelor of OHS degree.      

In the U.K., it was difficult to locate many offerings in formal OHS, other than several post-graduate degrees in OHS-related topics. I was able to find a foundation degree in Health and Safety Management, available in a two-year part-time format from South Tyneside College.

Similarly, an abundance of U.S. schools offer post-graduate degrees in OHS-related subjects, but Montana Tech appears to be one of the only post-secondary institutions offering an undergraduate degree in Occupational Safety and Health.

For the most part, formal OHS education appears to be considered only as an afterthought for someone who already has a Bachelors degree or who happens to be working in the field already. 

Although globally there are very few options for students wishing to enroll in formal OHS education, there is a fair bit of variety in the core competencies of the various OHS programs available worldwide. Certainly, there will be differences in course titles and those differences may not necessarily equate to a difference in curriculum. It may not be abundantly clear that a certain topic is being covered by one of these programs simply based on the titles of the courses. 

Perhaps now is the time to call for an international standard on formal OHS education. Input would have to be gathered from a large number of stakeholders in order to develop the standards, which is the primary roadblock in its development. 

Generally, I think the core OHS competencies that should be common in any OHS program in any country are the elements of an effective OHS management system:
•    Hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control (including compliance with law)
•    Implementation and operation (worker competency, data collection and records retention)
•    Checking and corrective action (inspections, investigations and audits)

So even though we are most likely a long way from an international standard for formal OHS education, there is no doubt in my mind that such standard would benefit not only OHS professionals but most importantly, the workers who we spend our careers trying to protect.

I would be delighted to hear what you believe the core competencies of formal OHS education should be so please feel free to email me your thoughts.  

Adam A. Neave is the OHS instructor at the College of the North Atlantic in Doha, Qatar.  You can contact him at [email protected] or through www.cna-qatar.com.