Health and safety advisers need accreditation to ensure they meet appropriate standards of professional competence, the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said.
Judith Hackitt told guests at an International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) reception in London this week that although HSE did not intend to run such a scheme, it did believe one was necessary.
Ms Hackitt said:
"We do believe that there is a need for an accreditation system within the competency framework for health and safety professionals. We have no interest in HSE directly controlling or regulating such a scheme, but we are very keen to ensure that all professional bodies who establish an accreditation scheme do so in a way that measures competence in practice, not just acquired knowledge.
"Accreditation must include continuing professional development as a requirement as well as a means of sanction, with real teeth, for anyone who acts unethically in their professional activities - including providing inappropriate advice or guidance."
She said that those involved in health and safety needed to be competent to assess and manage risk by applying common sense, taking a proportionate approach and exercising judgment about what is reasonable.
Competence is one of the cornerstones of the new health and safety strategy for Great Britain, and HSE wants to see increased competence as the basis of a more sensible and proportionate approach to managing risk.
Judith Hackitt made a series of speeches this week underlining the importance of competence and how it should not be measured in terms of retained knowledge but instead on the ability to apply it.
She gave the keynote address to the British Safety Council's conference on the health and safety challenges facing public services in London, and spoke at a graduation ceremony organized by the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) in Warwick.
HSE wants employers to have access to competent, sensible advice from professional advisors so that risks are properly managed and unproductive measures and paperwork are not pursued.
A study for the Federation of Small Businesses in 2007 found that 60 per cent of firms found risk assessment difficult - making professional advisers an important part of the health and safety system.