IOSH’s competency framework is helping Mubin Chowdhury CMIOSH in court as a local magistrate.
Health and safety professionals are responsible for people’s wellbeing, but for Mubin Chowdhury CMIOSH, it’s doubly true. That’s because Mubin, the University of Leicester’s health and safety business partner, also serves as a magistrate in Leicester and Loughborough.
‘There are misconceptions around magistrates, like there are around OSH professionals,’ Mubin says.
‘But just as OSH professionals are moving away from the old stereotypes, so magistrates are also modernising their image. There’s a misconception that you have to be from a certain profession or status to be a magistrate, but that’s wrong. There’s even a young magistrates group, just as IOSH has its Future Leaders.’
Crossing the court
Having started in OSH in 2003, taking on such a stimulating voluntary role makes perfect sense at this stage of Mubin’s career.
‘I enjoy getting to know people, understanding their motivation and pain points, and how I can enable them to work safely. When you’re dealing with so many stakeholders, it teaches you to treat people in an open, fair, respectful and unbiased manner. That reflects the competency framework element of diversity and inclusion, but all of that is crucial to being a magistrate and the principle of justice, too.’
In fact, there is a lot of cross-over between Mubin’s professional life and his voluntary role. Magistrates have their own competency framework and must be able to demonstrate key qualities including good character, understanding and communication, social awareness, maturity and sound temperament, sound judgement, and commitment and reliability.
‘The magistrate’s “good character” quality highlights personal integrity, as does one of the IOSH codes of practice,’ says Mubin. ‘Key quality two – understanding and communication – overlaps with the competency framework in the areas of decision-making and effective communication.
‘A magistrate is a very responsible position but it’s not about power. It’s about making the responsible decision and then being accountable for that decision.’
OSH is such a people-centric role now. That is where the competency framework can help you to take stock
Give and take
There are also certain specific ways that Mubin’s OSH experience has helped him work particularly effectively as a magistrate.
‘If I look at behavioural competencies, active listening is crucial when doing an accident investigation. You are given a lot of information but you have to simplify it: what are the actual facts and what level of evidence is available?’ Mubin says.
‘Active listening is also especially important when listening to people in court and absorbing all the evidence from different representatives.
‘Empathy is an important competency. As OSH professionals, we have to see things from other people’s perspectives. In court, I have to keep the victim in mind and make sure we operate an open, fair and prompt justice system that is looking after them.’
In return, court experience is bringing its own benefits that Mubin can apply to the health and safety sector.
‘Specialist knowledge is a key benefit,’ Mubin says. ‘I’m gaining knowledge in areas such as occupational driving, which is a big issue in the workplace with factors such as speeding, mobile phone use or insurance requirements. I’ve also learned a great deal about substance misuse and domestic abuse.’
Stakeholder and risk management framework competencies have also been enhanced by court experience.
‘In court, we are always prioritising which cases to see first on the basis of risk identification, profiling and risk mitigation,’ Mubin says.
‘Sentencing – whether punitive or rehabilitative – that’s all risk management. You keep foremost in mind the victim and what will most benefit society. But if you can rehabilitate somebody, you’re potentially reducing the risk of them coming back to court.’
Magistrates are volunteers who hear court cases in criminal court, family court or both. All criminal cases begin in a magistrates’ court. Magistrates can give punishments such as fines, unpaid work in the community, or prison for up to six months (or up to 12 months for more than one crime). Magistrates are required to be in court for at least 13 days a year and employers must, by law, allow them reasonable time off work to serve.
The structured nature of the competency framework is helping Mubin work his way through all of the elements. ‘I wish I had a structured framework like this when I started my career because it gives a focus in terms of overall work, career and life.’
And while completing all 69 elements of the framework can seem insurmountable at times, he says the key to making it achievable is grouping them. ‘Think about the IOSH code of conduct and your CPD and tie all three things together,’ he says.
His advice to those new to the profession? ‘Choose a few competencies every year or every few months and ask yourself: How do they tie in with what I am doing at work? Am I actively listening? Am I doing a project where I can use some of these framework competencies?’
Mubin believes mentoring can help with this. ‘Get yourself a mentor who can guide you through the competency framework with their experience,’ he says. ‘I benefit from having two IOSH mentees and mentors.’
Mubin says his experiences in court – along with the competency framework, IOSH’s code of practice and regular CPD – all combine to make him not just a better health and safety professional, but a more effective member of the wider community.
‘OSH is such a people-centric role now. That is where the competency framework can help you to take stock and understand your strengths and weaknesses,’ he says.
‘Take on challenging projects and tie in any CPD reflective statements with the competency framework. You can learn a lot from failure as well as success. For example, I’ve learnt a lot from having to resubmit my IOSH Fellowship application.
‘Following the competency framework can make you an enhanced, all-round trusted adviser. But these are also transferable skills that you can use if you want to go into management as you progress and develop your career. Or they can help you in other aspects of life, too.’
The IOSH competency framework has been designed to help OSH professionals build capability and keep pace with rapid change in the workplace. It’s a useful reference tool for recruiting and developing individuals or a team. Find out more here.