Govt's first step in improving H&S in NZ
The NZSC believes that the New Zealand Governments broad acceptance of the Taskforce recommendations is the first step in improving H&S in NZ.
The Government intends to establish a health and safety professional’s alliance (HaSPA) that will improve the standard of health and safety professionals operating in NZ and this is supported by the NZSC.
The NZSC has since its inception eleven years ago provided a voluntary registration system for H&S professionals who have been measured against a set of ten core competencies which include both theoretical knowledge and practical implementation skills across a wide range of H&S disciplines.
The NZSC has for many years lobbied both Government Departments and Ministers to have a mandatory minimum standard for H&S professionals (at Diploma level) and a requirement for all H&S practitioners to be registered along the same lines as for example registered social workers.
Because there has not been a suitable qualification available in NZ above NZQA level four the NZSC has adopted the Australian Diploma in Occupational Safety & Health as their minimum standard for H&S practitioners.
It is our belief that this is the most relevant qualification to NZ, given the closer economic relationship that New Zealand has with Australia, the proliferation of joint Australian/New Zealand standards and the interchange of workers between both countries.
The NZSC has developed an education pathway that starts at the H&S Representative level and progresses through to the Diploma in Occupational Safety & Health. This is then supplemented by professional registration and a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) process, so industry knowledge remains current.
One of the Taskforce recommendations is a clear sign that H&S in New Zealand can be improved through the provision of qualified professional advice, particularly to small and medium businesses.
Currently there are practitioners operating in NZ who have no recognised qualifications in H&S and there has been no mandatory requirement for them to hold any qualifications, let alone prove their competency.
This is why the NZSC has led the way in providing a voluntary registration system for H&S professionals through the development of the Registered Safety Professional competency standard, the Accredited Safety Auditor Standard and the development of the Diploma in Occupational Safety & Health.
Currently business owners are in a caveat emptor position. They are gambling on the quality of advice provided to them by those H&S practitioners they have hired and without the means to properly assess the experience and competency of those individuals.
The NZSC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NZISM on the 22nd of April 2013 for both organisations to work closer together to represent health and safety practitioners in New Zealand and to raise the profile and performance of health and safety including working towards setting a minimum standard for health & safety practitioners.
This is the key to ensure there is a uniform, relevant approach for all NZ practitioners, not a go it alone track which has in the past stymied progress. Given the Governments drive to address New Zealand’s H&S performance, now is the time for Government to fully engage with both organisations as representatives of H&S practitioners, experienced in operating in New Zealand’s workplaces.
Together with Government, we can ensure the days of unqualified, unregistered people providing health and safety advice in NZ are over, and by doing so make a noticeable reduction to the numbers of people harmed at work.