by Gladys Johnsen – Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers an HR concentration in its business school that includes a course on OHS as part of its curriculum. Wayne Tebb, Dean of the School of Business at Kwantlen Polytechnic University makes the observation that the traditional role of the safety officer was a white hat and clip board handing out reprimands and disciplinary measures. “That attitude is changing” he observes.
“In many companies the OHS resource is now perceived as a value-added resource with a positive impact on production, staff retention and even the bottom line.”
Finding the right OHS fit for manufacturers can be challenging however, especially if a part-time or shared OHS role is required. Given the lack of a governing body or association for safety professionals, most companies today turn to a combination of practical experience, online or classroom courses to address training needs.
“Having a full-time OHS professional is expensive, and there’s no standardized set of metrics against which to judge either a program or the safety officer. This often results in a lot of turnover, either due to companies seeking a quick fix to their injury rate, or because the safety resource pursues a firm with a stronger commitment to health and safety ” said Wayne.
Wayne foresees future OHS training based on the development of a set of competencies upon which a professional program could be designed. That complex task is being studied by a Partnership made up of government, educational institutions and the Alliance.
The concept of micro-credentialing is likely to be one solution for the future of OHS education, especially for employees fulfilling a part-time OHS role. Working in conjunction with industry associations during the development phase, these courses could include focused units led by accountants or lawyers to increase the student’s understanding of both regulation and liability. These units would be directed at the owner, HR, QA, Plant Manager or CFO, depending on where the company’s health and safety program is positioned.
“OHS training is in transition,” Wayne believes, “and no one educational or delivery model is going to work for all companies and industries.”