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Industry Voices: Safety certification battle not brewing

Bruce Stevens
Industry Voices: Safety certification battle not brewing

In a recent Journal article, it was claimed by the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance that there are serious issues over the construction safety designation in B.C. between their Construction Safety Specialist (CSS) and our Construction Safety Officer (CSO) designations.

Nothing could be more misguided. The Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C. (ASTTBC) is a professional regulatory body, mandated by provincial statute whose standards of ethics and independence resonates with business, industry and safety practitioners.

The ASTTBC Construction Safety Officer certification program is unique in Canada. It offers a three-tiered certification model that allows members to build towards a career in construction safety. All designations awarded are protected by Provincial Statute and Federal Trademark. Members enter as a Provisional CSO and work their way up the ladder to CSO and finally Registered CSO.

The initial training (competencies) are generally obtained through a CSO training course delivered by independent training agencies, accredited by the ASTTBC. Certification also requires applicants to meet strict qualification criteria including an ethics and professionalism in practice exam. Meeting this standard results in award of  the in-training certification level, Provisional CSO.

However, this is only the beginning. Each year, to maintain certification, all members of the ASTTBC must acquire continuing professional development (CPD) points, which must be recorded on the member’s CPD log within the ASTTBC website. Graduating to a full CSO, requires a minimum of three years experience, plus annual CPD, which means the CSO will have accumulated more than 220 hours of verifiable training.

The CSO must then practice as a Construction Safety Officer for a full two additional years before being eligible for reclassification to Registered CSO.

The Registered CSO or RCSO as it’s called, is a senior construction safety professional eligible only to those CSOs with a minimum of five years of experience plus some 320 hours of verifiable training and continual learning. This is in stark contrast to certificates, handed out by provincial construction associations.

The value of this distinction is not lost on safety professionals. The Jan/Feb edition of Occupational Health and Safety Canada magazine questioned the credibility of provincial construction association certificates, saying; "the fact that the certification body is typically the same organization that administers the certification and conducts the training presents a conflict of interest, which takes a toll on the certification’s credibility. You are buying a credential from someone selling it."

Astute and prudent employers are demanding a distinct distance between the organization providing/selling the training and the jurisdiction awarding a certification. Moreover, there is a growing call for higher standards of competency, opportunity for career progression, clear ethics policy and mandatory continuing education.

This is the ASTTBC CSO Certification Program.

There is also the ongoing question of who is considered qualified within the WorkSafeBC’s OH&S Regulation.

We look to Section 1.1 definition of qualified:  "being knowledgeable of the work, the hazards involved and the means to control the hazards, by reason of education, training, experience or a combination thereof."

This simply means that a Provisional CSO, CSO or RCSO is commonly recognized as being qualified based on that individual’s competency and experience as judged by their employer and the WorkSafeBC board officer.

So, what does all this mean?

The ASTTBC’s commitment to standards of competency, accountability and independence ensures the credibility of the Provisional CSO, CSO and RCSO certifications.

This credibility is the reason that the ASTTBC will continue to provide a critically important and independent option for the certification of construction safety practitioners.

No other construction safety designation comes close to the ASTTBC member’s level of accountability and commitment.

There is no battle brewing.

Bruce Stevens is an Applied Science Technologist – Civil Engineering, registered with The ASTTBC, and holds the dual roles of regional manager and manager construction safety registrations at the ASTTBC. Send questions or comments to editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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