Opening New Pathways To Recognition Though Certification

Thursday, 21 April, 2022 - 13:15
Member update
National News

The Australian Institute of Health & Safety is introducing changes to its Certification Program in order to better meet the needs of the profession and Australian business.

The Australian OHS Profession Certification Program was introduced 5 years ago, developed from the original membership grading system of the Safety Institute of Australia. The program was built on The OHS Professional Capability Framework: A Global Framework for Practice, which provided an international benchmark, and today nearly 2000 people have been certified.

AIHS CEO David Clarke outlined the changes underway which include:

  • Liberalisation of entry points to encompass people who are already in the marketplace, functioning in OHS roles.
  • Translation from high-bar entry – which excludes many existing health and safety people - to high-quality assessment processes which identify knowledge gaps and point to learning which must be achieved before certification can be achieved.
  • Development of a practitioner-level exam focussed on an entry-level into certification for those that currently hold a Cert IV in WHS. 
  • Creation of a range of ways to advance from one level of Certification to the next, including the recognition of a range of micro-credentials.
  • Creation of specialist streams for the higher level of certification which recognise that people move into a variety of roles including HSE Executive, generalist consultant, or specialist functions such as investigation/audit.

Mr Clarke explained “This is simply Stage 2, after our first five years. The British, Americans and Canadians have built their Certification Programs over decades, and this is an intergenerational investment by the AIHS. The profession seeks greater standing, and employers seek greater confidence that they are getting the advice they need. The Certification Program is all about having a framework that delivers both of those things and supports health and safety people in their careers. As the program continues to grow, so too will the demand from industry, for suitably qualified and certified practitioners and professionals.“

Clarke explained that the program’s next stage had to address its initial weaknesses, and respond to what is actually occurring in the marketplace. “We’ve collated feedback from industry and the profession, and these changes make the program more relevant to both. That means, lowering some of the entry point requirements in the program to invite the people who are already doing the work into the program, and correspondingly raising the bar in terms of knowledge assessment and learning that people undertake on their pathway to Certification, to ensure our standards remain high” he said.      

“The career journeys that people take to end up in health and safety roles are very diverse compared to other professions. That means their levels of WHS knowledge are diverse. One of our tasks as a profession is to be stewards of the core OHS Body of Knowledge and ensure that everyone has a learning pathway suited to their background, current role, and career aspirations which allows them to acquire that knowledge. We have to meet health and safety people where they stand, already out there in the marketplace, and be an active support for their continued growth in learning” he said.  

One of the most significant changes is the opportunity for people working at practitioner level with a Certificate IV in WHS to enter the program. “There are literally thousands of people with many years experience in WHS, who have built that experience on their Cert IV, and many areas of industry are not yet demanding more education than that,” said Clarke. “People in those roles deserve the opportunity to be assessed and demonstrate their capability as practitioners.”

Mr Clarke underlined that the change was not a lowering of standards. “The standards of Certification will remain the same, and the knowledge requirements for people will be at the same levels. Practitioners with Diplomas and higher levels of education will have those recognised appropriately. It’s just that we are also giving other experienced practitioner level workers the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through a more sophisticated assessment process.”  

Clarke explained that the educational and learning landscape is also changing. “The rise of micro-credentialling and other changes are placing new pressures on our education system, and the Certification Program needs the flexibility to recognise these,” he said.

The Institute is currently in the process of creating a Practitioner Knowledge Assessment process, which will be launched in the third quarter of 2022. Meanwhile, the AIHS is engaging in pilot programs of groups assessments of health and safety teams, and building that learning into the newer approaches to Certification.

In summarising, Mr Clarke said “It’s an exciting time to be part of this program, the rapid growth happening and the big improvements we are making. Industry demand for certified people has begun to appear, and that’s a critical point in the next stage of growth. Australian business deserves the best quality health and safety advice, and health and safety people deserve more recognition, as well as support in their career learning. In a few years, looking back, this initiative will be seen as one of the most influential in the journey of the profession to its maturity."