Accreditation scheme should help “restore confidence”
The new accreditation scheme for safety consultants will be officially announced in the next few weeks by the HSE, which will run it in the initial stages.
The scheme will be open initially to UK consultants only, so in-house health and safety managers, advisors, etc. and consultants based abroad will not be eligible to register. There will be an annual fee to join, though this will be to cover administrative costs only, and so is unlikely to be prohibitive. The register will also initially be open only to those providing safety, rather than health-related advice.
Stakeholders in the profession have been calling for an accreditation scheme for some time and its development has been accelerated by the current government review into health and safety being undertaken by Lord Young of Graffham.
The set-up of the scheme is based on the outcome of the feasibility study carried out earlier this year by IOSH and the CIEH, the lead institutions in the consortium of stakeholder groups in the scheme, which also includes RoSPA, the British Safety Council, the IIRSM, the BSIF and the British Occupational Hygiene Society. This consortium will eventually take over the running of the scheme via the establishment of a company limited by guarantee.
Chartered members of IOSH and the CIEH who work as consultants providing safety advice will be able to join the scheme, and it was agreed that fellows of other relevant institutions will also be eligible. Once it has been launched, IOSH’s own register of safety consultants will cease operating.
Said the Institution’s chief executive, Rob Strange: “We see the scheme as setting the standard for competent, qualified and experienced health and safety consultants, and helping to restore confidence in health and safety.
“It is vital that businesses looking for help – often small firms – get sound, proportionate advice on health and safety, and that they have confidence in those advising them. Research shows that there is support from both bona-fide consultants and small businesses for this sort of scheme.”
However, there is some confusion over the difference between accreditation and chartered membership, with 63 per cent of respondents to SHPonline’s current poll on the issue believing there is no need for the former when the latter is already available.
IOSH’s head of professional affairs, Hazel Harvey, explained: “Chartered membership is recognised by the Privy Council as an appropriate designation for someone with a degree-level qualification, and who has been assessed on their skills and experience. It’s not just available to consultants but to all who reach those standards. Accreditation means belonging to a register for which there are set criteria, but it does not have any formal recognition.”
The HSE and other stakeholders have been clear that the main aim of the scheme is to ensure that all businesses, especially SMEs, receive proportionate and sound safety advice from practitioners that have demonstrably reached a good level of qualification. Asked whether it really would make that much difference to firms who are struggling in the recession and so may be likely to choose suppliers based on cost rather than qualifications, Hazel Harvey said: “Using advisors without the right level of expertise, no matter how cheap they are, is potentially dangerous and a false economy. Research has shown that SMEs would be interested in using the proposed register of accredited consultants.”
The register is due to be launched early next year and it will be publicly accessible and searchable via a bespoke website.
The HSE, when contacted for a comment, refused to confirm any details other than the names of the stakeholder organisations involved, that the scheme will be voluntary, and that a main aim is “to make it easier for those employers who do need to use external safety advice to find consultants in whom they can have confidence”. It added that further information will be available “in the autumn”.
Advance your career in health and safety
Browse hundreds of jobs in health and safety, brought to you by SHP4Jobs, and take your next steps as a consultant, health and safety officer, environmental advisor, health and wellbeing manager and more.
Or, if you’re a recruiter, post jobs and use our database to discover the most qualified candidates.