New framework

Changing landscape

Safety and health professionals must develop non-technical skills to keep pace in the fourth industrial revolution – and IOSH’s new competency framework will be key to this

During a recent focus group at IOSH, with leading OSH professionals, a member explained that she wished to recruit two people. Her first problem was filtering applicants – everyone had the same qualifications and professed to have experience of conducting risk assessment, writing policy and procedures and so on. This raised an important question: how do you differentiate when everyone, on paper, looks the same? 

Her second problem was that, despite reducing the applications to a manageable number of interviews, she did not appoint any of the candidates. Why? Because none of them could show that they had the skills to influence others and drive change in the workplace. 

This story brought a chorus of agreement among the other OSH leaders present. Sadly, it reflects negatively on our profession’s ability to develop talent and serves as an example of why we sometimes struggle to argue we are a profession to be valued and listened to. 

IOSH has continued to assess the demands of the modern workplace and the future challenges for the profession. The fourth industrial revolution and ever-changing commercial landscape demand that the modern OSH professional develops “non-technical” skills. 

With this in mind, we have modified the balance of support for our members. Although the technical understanding of the trade remains vital, we will no longer focus solely on this. In line with our strategic aims to enhance, collaborate and influence, we recognise that IOSH needs to do more to help members build the skills and behaviours necessary to further their careers and become more effective influencers. We will now provide fresh impetus to supporting the career development and professional standing of our members.

Our new competency framework is a first step and the result of a lengthy, evidence-led research project. Through a combination of focus groups, telephone interviews, desktop research, analysis and benchmarking against a wide range of national and international standards and practices, we have identified 69 competencies. Forty per cent are more traditional and technical competencies, and 60% address capability through core skills and behaviour. 

The competencies are divided into three groups:

Technical competence

Our profession must continue to enhance its capability to provide accurate and effective advice on safety and occupational health subjects. This section of the framework includes the collection of OSH technical competencies that underpin advisory ability. These include complying with legislation and standards, policy, risk management, incident management and the effect of health, safety and welfare on people. It also includes new technical understanding aimed at working more effectively in the modern age, such as sustainability, ethical practice, human capital and community impact.

Core competence

This covers the skills to support and enable good decision-making in the workplace. It includes the competencies necessary to influence in operationally busy organisations and enhance the employability and general effectiveness of the OSH professional. The competencies include strategy, planning, leadership and management skills. 

Behavioural competence

To deliver influence, OSH professionals must conduct themselves appropriately in the workplace. This section includes competencies for building effective stakeholder relationships, delivering good personal and professional performances, developing exemplary communication skills and an ability to work productively with others. These are all abilities that underpin the building of successful and productive relationships.

What will IOSH be doing next?

At IOSH 2019 we heard from a diverse array of speakers who are leading the charge with innovative and disruptive approaches, to ensure that safety and health is taken seriously as a core business function. The time for change is now.

Our new framework provides exciting possibilities. It provides essential context for our qualifications and training products, as well as the review of member grades. It also lays the foundation for the launch next year of our new professional journey for members, which will include an enhanced assessment tool, expanded continuing professional development and a new career hub.  

By equipping OSH professionals with a wider range of skills, IOSH will help to break down the barriers and future-proof the profession. 

Watch this space, there is more to come! 

Technical competence

  • Health and safety law
  • Risk management
  • Incident management
  • Culture
  • Sustainability

Core competence

  • Strategy
  • Planning
  • Leadership and management

Behavioural competence

  • Stakeholder management
  • Personal performance
  • Communication
  • Working with others




Duncan Spencer is head of advice and practice, IOSH. 


  • Great Article. As a cons

    Permalink Submitted by Ryan on 2 October 2019 - 06:46 pm

    Great Article. As a consultant, I have had to adapt to influence lots of different people at every level and at every age demographic. It is definitely a skill that develops and isn't easy to learn. But having a mentor to tell you what your good at and not so good at definitely helps. I am lucky to have such mentors.


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