A global occupational safety & health professional standard...finally

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I doubt you missed it, it has been all over the EHS-related media in the past few weeks… At the beginning of September 2017, the 21st World Congress on Safety & Health at Work 2017 was held in Singapore across 4 days. The Congress, which runs every 3 years offers a platform for the exchange of information and views to experts in occupational safety and health, representatives of enterprises and workers (the social partners), decision-makers in governments and public authorities, and anyone else active in the area of occupational safety and health. This year, the motto of the Congress was “A Global Vision of Prevention”.

One of the most interesting things to come out around the Congress was the signature of the “Singapore Accord” – an initiative led by the International Network of Safety & Health Practitioner Organizations (INSHPO). The INSHPO today brings together representatives from across 14 of the world’s professional safety & health practitioners associations, from 11 countries. INSHPO was initially set up in 2001 by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in the United Kingdom.

The Singapore Accord is a concerted, collaborative response to the increasingly global approach companies are taking to manage occupational safety & health. The Singapore Accord, signed by 45 separate organizations, seeks a commitment to move towards a global standard for practitioners and thereby provides a worldwide framework to uphold the highest standards of competent health and safety professionals and practitioners in creating healthier and safer workplaces. INHSPO, over a number of years, has developed a framework for such a standard, which can be accessed here.

Of course, many practitioner qualifications and standards already exist – managed by the individual country organizations. Indeed some, like IOSH, are already actively expanding their professional membership and affiliation horizons beyond their own (UK) shores and could already be considered international. It will be interesting to see what a global standard will mean for such internationalization efforts by national bodies.

Nevertheless, the Singapore Accord is no small collaborative effort, and one which in the view of many is absolutely necessary in today’s world (and it could be argued, has been long overdue). The health & safety of workers is and will remain a global issue. The Singapore Accord takes this global reality and is an important step in taking a global approach to defining the roles, skills, knowledge, and qualifications recommended for OHS professionals and practitioners.

From an EHS regulatory perspective, it is great to see that the professional knowledge requirements in the standard include the need to understand the international, regional and national regulatory context, as well as various other legal aspects, such as OHS-specific regulations.

This is a great step forward to the OHS profession – but it does beg the question, where most professionals also have an “E” in their title - Is there something similar on the horizon for the environmental management profession as well? I would argue that there definitely should be. I have scoured the internet to find information on such an initiative, but have yet to find any – only national bodies such as IEMA and NAEP, etc. If you come across anything, please let us know!

The next World Congress will be held in Canada in 2020.

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