Above board on safety

On the first day of the winter semester for his occupational health and safety class, Dan Lyons’ students asked him how he finds the time to do it all. 

Lyons is the vice-president of health, safety and environment at Armtec in Guelph, Ont., and he teaches at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. He is also the newly appointed chair of the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP). 

“(Being the board chair) is challenging and fulfilling, but, at the same time, it can be very demanding from a time perspective,” says Lyons. “But because I have such passion for the profession and what I do, I am more than happy to devote that time and energy.”

Lyons joined the board, based in Mississauga, Ont., as governor in 2010 and has served as vice-chair since 2012. On Jan. 1, 2014, he assumed his new position as chair. 

For Lyons, getting into occupational health and safety was not an accident. Upon completing his master of public health from Tulane University in New Orleans, L.A., he knew he wanted to become a health and safety professional. 

“I was trying to identify a specific area, a career path, and after researching it and talking to a number of people, I really became intrigued by the breadth and scope offered by the health and safety profession,” he says. “I found it really presented a challenging opportunity, which was important to me, and opportunities to develop and utilize a combination of technical and personal and interpersonal skills.” 

OHS evolution

Over his 26 years in OHS management, Lyons has truly seen the profession evolve as social expectations related to health and safety have “dramatically increased.” When he started out, health and safety was not considered integral to most organizations, but now it is seen as a licence to do business, he says. 

“And through that elevation, the importance of the health and safety professional has been elevated as well,” says Lyons. “In the past, it may have been acceptable to have an individual that was not technically proficient in this area, but with this elevation, it means we need to have health and safety professionals that can meet this challenge.” 

The CRSP designation is gaining a higher profile as well. The BCRSP conducted an analysis of job postings and found on some web sites, 70 per cent of the OHS positions are now identifying the CRSP as a required competency. 

“It’s very encouraging. It says it’s starting to resonate in employers’ minds and the HR community, in particular, is realizing that this is a role that — to be performed effectively — demands highly competent, talented individuals and organizations are looking for some form of benchmark to confirm that person has those competencies,” he says. 

As the value proposition for the CRSP increases in the eyes of the employer, the value for the those holding the certification increases as well, says Lyons. CRSPs can anticipate an increased salary potential, enhanced promotion opportunities as well as transportability and recognition of the designation outside of Canada. 

Strengthening certification standards

As chair, Lyons will be working with the board on strengthening certification standards going forward. 

For the past two years, Lyons has chaired the certification maintenance committee, which reviewed the process professionals need to undergo to maintain their designation. 

“We looked at the progression of technology as a reflection on the way we do things and help people develop as professionals, so we made some amendments (and introduced) self-directed learning,” says Lyons. “As professionals, it’s not just that learning occurs in the classroom or conference environment, there are many opportunities for self-directed learning.”

Now, individuals are able to meet certification maintenance requirements through reading peer-reviewed journal articles or books related to health and safety. 

This year, the board will be undergoing a review of the exam process, with a revamped version to be released in 2015. CRSP-holders will be invited to complete a survey as part of this review.

“It provides the opportunity for feedback to be received from certificants to gauge the scope of the health and safety function to make sure the exam blueprint is really reflective of the evolution of the discipline,” says Lyons. “As a certification body, we need to be current in our approach.”

The board is gauging its certification practices relevant to other comparator organizations, such as the Institute for Credentialing Excellence in the United States as well as member organizations of the International Network of Safety & Health Practitioner Organisations (INSHPO) in the United Kingdom. 

Building partnerships

Lyons is a strong believer of the power of collaboration and is keen on building relationships with other like-minded organizations. The board already has a strong relationship with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals in the U.S. as well as INSHPO. 

“BCRSP will continue to cultivate our brand as a recognized global leader as a certifier of occupational health and safety professionals… in order to ensure opportunities exist for the recognition and transportability of the CRSP designation in other jurisdictions,” he says. 

The board is planning a targeted marketing and communications initiative to a variety of stakeholders to further enhance recognition of the CRSP. 

Since joining the board in 2010, Lyons has been apart of a number of improvements, such as a revision of its charter, amendment of its bylaws, and refinement of its strategic plan. 

“I am very proud of the progress that we have made as a governing board,” he says. “We have some extremely
talented individuals, we have a fantastic profile, I think we are really in a well position to maintain our position as an industry leader as well as to propel forward.