A really nice article appeared in the ASSE Journal this month in regards to performance standards for safety professionals.
Outcomes Based Accreditation: Advancing the OSH Profession by James D. Ramsay, Elbert Sorrell, and Wayne E. Hartz
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. The article gives some good indications of what does it take to be a safety professional or what should it take.
I remember a few years ago flipping through the local paper, and my eye caught a help wanted add for a safety person. They wanted a high school diploma or GED, 3-5 years of experience, paid $12-$20 per hour based on experience, and CSP preferred. I really wish I had saved that ad or taken a photo of it. I really doubt they wanted a CSP and the expectations that come with that credential. In that case, it seemed that the company was more interested in looking like they had safety rather than really wanting a robust program. I remember an interview years ago where they asked me the stock question about ethics. I cited the BCSP ethical bylaws. At that time, it felt that after they saw I was very serious about ethics; I was not longer a viable candidate.
There was a great table as part of the article that demonstrates that further.
Another way to look at the situation is that no company hires an accountant by finding a guy who is just good at math. By looking at the chart, though, it would appear that some organizations do hire safety people based on that odd idea.
There have been times where someone will ask me a question about a safety program and they feel my answer is too tough to implement or too technical. It always seems that they have met a safety person who will exclude certain items from an OSHA log or give variances to the regulations where no wiggle room is allowed. These items are usually not willful, but a lack of understanding of the regulations and the interpretations to the regulations. They practice safety under the “safety, that’s common sense stuff” approach. There are even times that the phase, “that’s just an occupational risk, people should just work safe” is used. The safety profession is still relatively new to the scene. I think there will be several evolutions of how companies will evaluate the use of safety professionals. I have seen where safety is part of engineering or operations or human resources or legal. Finding the right fit for safety in the organization is as varied as organizations are. As companies see the value in degree/credential holding safety professionals, the professional will gain from having stronger experience and expertise in the field.
Is safety rocket science? No, but SAFETY IS ABOUT PEOPLE!