Insights from INSHPO’s president on the Global Capability Framework for OHS Professionals

Eldeen Pozniak
This framework outlines capabilities, core competencies and body of knowledge information within the OHS profession within six categories of practice from a “practitioner” to “professional” level. It is the result of three years of development and consultation across 11 countries with input from OHS professionals, educators and certifying bodies. 

The framework describes the activities that anyone can be expected to undertake and the required foundational knowledge needed within the safety realm. It details personal, professional and technical skills necessary for effective OHS practice along with performance criteria for each. This framework is multifunctional. It can be used by:

•the practitioner or professional to chart his professional development or assist in making decisions on specific preferred level of practice

•the HR professional in determining the level and skill set she wants within specific positions, as well as performance appraisals and professional development paths 

•a companies OHS department to outline its needed positions, skills sets and organizational development goals

•an educational institutions to ensure curriculum inclusions

•a certification or designation body to determine their standards and testing inclusions

•a government body to approach and determine a licensed profession.

Having organizations understand the value of the safety professional is key to safety management system success.  Having this framework will assist in that. When we see an organizational job posting for a "safety" position certifications and designations are often grouped together like they are all the same. "Applicant should have ABC or a XYZ." For those of us practising, we often look at it and comment on how these organizations do not understand what we do and what different certifications mean. This framework will allow employers to make better hiring decisions because they can see the roles and functions within each category and tie capability to a specific level of practitioner.

As we have seen OHS positions evolve, we have seen a variety of capabilities, knowledge and skills sets. When there is no set framework to work within, organizations can hire someone who has taken a four-day course or a university degree and they “title” them, or call them the same thing. Having someone in a position without a set level of capabilities or skills can negatively affect the organization, but also puts all of us in the profession in a negative light. My background and previous profession was medical and I often use it as an example. Who do you want medically treating you: someone who has specific capabilities and has been tested to have them or someone who read it in a library book and wants to give it a try.  

When determining the scope of any classification there are differing opinions and even standards. What we have tried to do here is put together, in a collaborative and inclusive researched-based approach, what we feel is a high bar that all countries and organizations should work towards. I believe understanding the framework, having discussions and applying it within our areas of influence and practice will integrate it into common understanding and practice.

Applying this document within certification and designation organizations, within position posting, and individual professional development, to mention only a few uses, will promote a better understanding of the value of the OHS profession and promote high standards of practice for OHS professionals. In the long run, we will then see more effective systems and roles within organizations, job growth and stability and recognition through compensation levels and organizational positions.

I personally and professionally believe that there will be a greater understanding, applicability and transfer of the OHS professional on a national and international basis. I believe that we have built a framework that, when applied, allows us to be a more geographically mobile profession. There will be a greater understanding of what is needed to practice in different countries and the ability to obtain what is necessary to do so will be easier. And within that, I see where certifying bodies will be looking at reciprocal agreements to be able to work together to maintain a high standard for the profession.