Long before COVID-19 struck, change was sweeping through work practices. OSH professionals must keep themselves up to date and ensure they have the right skill-set to be able to advise businesses.
The world of work is fast-changing, according to Maria O’Malley, IOSH head of membership engagement and development.
Maria isn’t just referring to the impact of COVID-19. Long before the pandemic, significant changes were occurring.
‘There have been so many technological advances, different legislation changes, and many more things impacting on work,’ she adds. ‘It is vital that our members keep on top of those changes and respond to them.’
So how do members keep themselves updated? And how do they ensure they are in a position to advise their employers or clients on how they can continue protecting workers in the face of these changes?
A crucial element, says Maria, is continuing professional development (CPD), as this enables members to update their knowledge and skills throughout their career in a vast array of areas.
‘Qualifications on their own aren’t enough to prove yourself,’ she says. ‘You could have a qualification from 10 years ago, but if you are not committing to further developing yourself, the knowledge that you gained from that will most likely be outdated.
‘CPD is what sets IOSH members apart from OSH professionals who don’t have membership. It’s the way we as an institution demonstrate to members and employers that getting that experience or qualification level is just the beginning of the journey: we want them to progress further, keep abreast of developments, maintain competence levels and move beyond current levels, so they keep moving forward and progressing.’
A world in flux
The CPD Certification Service describes CPD as something which ‘enables individuals to adapt positively to changes in both work and industry requirements’. It adds it is ‘an opportunity for an individual to identify knowledge gaps and to resolve these in a recognisable approach to improvement’.
Although we live in a time of uncertainty, there is one thing that is certain: the world of work will continue to change and, with it, so will the demands on OSH professionals. In 10, 20 or 50 years’ time, things will look very different to how they do now.
However, IOSH is clear that what won’t change will be the value its members, and the wider profession, bring to business. That is why enhancing the standing of the profession is, and will continue to be, a key focus of the institution.
CPD is what sets IOSH members apart from OSH professionals who don’t have membership
‘Enhance’ is indeed one of the three pillars of IOSH’s WORK 2022 five-year strategy. Much work has been done in this area since the strategy’s launch in 2017, but IOSH is only just getting started and members can look forward to much more.
In the coming months, the institution will unveil a whole new ‘professional journey programme’, a tailored package for members to guide them through their career at every level. With the revised competency framework as its bedrock, members will be able to identify where they can develop and improve. This will be linked to a more intuitive CPD scheme and, subject to Privy Council approval, updated member grades that are more clearly defined.
The overarching theme is one of lifelong learning, focusing on training, acquisition of new skills, and refreshment of knowledge and competence.
As identified by the competency framework, those skills won’t just cover technical areas; soft and business skills (which sit under the framework’s core and behavioural competencies) are identified
as equally crucial, and will enable members to advise businesses at the most senior level and influence change in the workplace. Also included will be a new ethical practice assessment, including e-learning and assessment, which will be compulsory for Chartered Members and Chartered Fellows and optional for those
at other levels of membership.
‘This work represents a huge change for IOSH at a time when there is great change around the world,’ adds Maria. ‘COVID-19 has really brought into focus the importance of OSH professionals. The professional journey programme will help to further demonstrate the value that members bring, setting standards and emphasising the importance of Chartered status and what it represents – which all links back to what we’re trying to achieve with our WORK 2022 strategy.’
One step beyond
IOSH members have recognised the need to continue to develop to ensure they stay ahead of the game and be the best they can be, acting as ‘enablers’ for businesses.
Mary Lawrence, a partner at Osborne Clarke, which specialises in health and safety law, says one of the most significant changes she has witnessed during her career is how the OSH profession has been integrated into the way a business is run.
‘Like other health and safety professionals, I have a real focus on raising the profile of the profession and the good work it does,’ she said. ‘When I started out in my career, I saw many businesses approaching health and safety as an “add on” or a role which managed the issues for the business, with others absolving themselves of responsibilities for a safe working environment.
‘This didn’t really work as it could often become a “them and us” culture and, rather than being seen as “enablers”, health and safety professionals were too often seen as blockers to business activity. I also started my career before having a director with responsibility for health and safety was seen as a critical part of a business’s safety management system. Today, more and more, I see health and safety professionals integrated into wider business teams, advising and supporting others to “own” safety and health.’
Lucy Pritchard GradIOSH, health and safety manager at Shoreham Port, agreed that OSH professionals need to keep up to date and require more than just technical skills.
‘When I started out in safety, those OSH professionals who stepped beyond the standard safety parameters were few and far between. Recent changes have seen a far greater need for business and soft skills combined with the traditional technical skills to really make safety a core part of what people do. It is also clear that there is a move to a more pragmatic form of safety management today, whereby OSH professionals are truly enablers of activity rather than the passive blockers that they were once perceived to be.
‘The world we work in is constantly changing, but over the past year and a half we have experienced significant shifts in the way businesses operate. As OSH professionals, we need to be responsive enough to be able to deal with any challenge we face, and the IOSH competency framework provides the structure to help us all develop the required capabilities over time, no matter what level we operate at.’
Shirley Parsons, chief executive at the eponymous health and safety recruitment consultancy firm, says that employers look for far more than just technical skills when they are looking to hire OSH professionals.
‘We see evidence of this every day when taking briefs from clients,’ she says. ‘The qualifications required are taken as a given and hiring managers want to know more about each candidate’s soft skills, business skills, behaviours and attitudes.
‘The OSH professional is now expected to contribute to the whole business, including business continuity and cost analysis, and have an appreciation of the impact of any incident on the organisation’s reputation. They have a role to play in harnessing business improvements in society – a key part is commercial acumen. OSH professionals will be expected to be catalysts for change in a way that convinces boardrooms of the importance of their area and be involved in strategic decisions. Quite simply, the role is critical for the growth of any business.’
And, as the world of work continues evolving, that is one thing that won’t change, meaning CPD will remain crucial for IOSH and its members.
Image Credit | IKON
Keep yourself up to date
IOSH has an array of resources to help members continually update their knowledge and skill-set, and use of these can all be logged on CPD records.
- IOSH Career Hub – featuring tools and resources that focus on developing the soft skills businesses are looking for (iosh.com/careerhub)
- IOSH Mentoring – providing an opportunity to learn from an experienced OSH professional, or support someone new to the profession (iosh.com/mentoring)
- CPD courses – available on a large number of different topics, you can learn something new or update your knowledge (iosh.com/cpdcourses)
- Webinars – run by our branch and group volunteers, these cover a range of topics and give the chance to network (iosh.com/webinars)
- Technical guides – these free resources are ideal for upskilling in key areas (iosh.com/resources)
And don’t forget: reading this magazine is also a way of developing yourself!