Who wants to be a safety professional?
I have been following a trail of conversations on Linkedin in the SIA Group. There is a big push on to have safety people gain accreditation, and I have to ask myself why? The SIA is Victorian based, and a corporate body, represented primarily by University academics, and espousing Victorian safety legislation, which has not been updated since 2001, and is a state (Vic) that refuses to enter harmonization of safety legislation.
I find the push by the SIA rather sinister in concept and design, having a non-state or federal body supported group trying to dictate what a safety person can do, or the qualifications they require to practice, is it a drive for one body to control safety? Is it a drive to force people into doing university courses? This can only ever eventuate through common consensus of state and federal governments, hence it would be great if we had a federal regulatory body like in the USA, and they have OSHA. Only if that happens can safety or safety jobs be regulated, through awards and conditions.
Currently if you care to look, under the job listings with Fair Work Australia, which also lists awards for these jobs, there is no listing for a safety job of any type. Hence why a lot of companies place safety under the HR banner, because safety is dealing with people, hence HR. Some companies also use the value add system with a safety job, and they place environmental, quality, auditing etc. onto the job roles, but in reality the job roles of Environment, Auditing and Quality Management, are recognized job roles as defined by FWA, but safety is not! Hence there is so much variance in safety people’s pay packets across Australia.
Safety is a young growing industry, but may not grow to adulthood; one of the biggest employers of safety people is the manufacturing industry, then construction, then the mining sector. There are already a lot of manufacturing industries in Australia going off shore, or closing their doors because they cannot compete in the global market, manufacturing here will have to go the way it is in Europe in order to stay competitive, that means Lean and just in time manufacturing using automation and robotics, there will be no place for a safety person, as there will be no people to keep safe.
Mining in Australia for the moment has reached its zenith, and many safety people have been stood down, this will be the norm for a number of years yet. That leaves construction; it too suffers downturns, so it may come to pass that they will only hire safety people on a contractual basis.
Then there is the realistic side to safety, no matter if you have a university education in safety, or have none at all, and are working as a safety practitioner, a Health and Safety Representative on a site, that has done a cert III, actually has more power than you that has a Doctorate in Human Science, or a Masters in OHS, if he is also in the union, he can order you off the site, he can also issue PIN’s (Except Qld) provisional improvement notices, the same as an inspector from a state regulator, as a safety person, you cannot do that, and the role of HSR is enshrined and recognized in legislation, your job as a safety person is not, actually, under legislation, you as a safety person do not come under the PCBU umbrella, but are deemed a worker, so do you want to be a professional worker and align yourself with doctors, architects, solicitors and engineers, when all you are is a worker?
The way of the future of safety in the next twenty years, is that it will form part of Human Resource, as HR jobs are listed under the award structure, so you may have to become a HR Generalist with an offshoot in safety, like offshoots in IR or payroll. All those poor disillusioned people that aspire to be safety professionals will need to become add-ons in a HR department.