ASSE Briefs NACOSH on Initiatives to Grow the Profession

The meeting took place ahead of Safety 2016, the big ASSE conference taking place this month in Atlanta.

ASSE reported that some of its members met last week with OSHA's National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health to discuss efforts to grow the OSH profession. Their discussion focused on the need for more qualified safety professionals and working with NACOSH to encourage the growth of the profession, with Jim Thornton, CSP, CIH, ASSE's vice president of Professional Affairs, explaining ASSE's initiatives in this area.

ASSE is working with the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations (INSHPO) to develop the OHS Professional Capabilities Framework and also working to identify seven core competencies that define the OSH discipline and a defined set of student learning outcomes.

The society convened a group of subject-matter experts in January 2016 to work on these after hosting an OSH Competency Summit the previous year.

The seven core competencies are:

1. Evidence-Based Practices: The OSH professional of the future will use research and evidence to drive problem solving and integrate value-added, practical solutions into organizational goals.

2. Communication: The OSH professional will interact effectively with stakeholders, colleagues, and employees, fostering mutual respect and shared decision making to enhance workers' health and safety.

3. Risk Management and Control: The OSH professional will participate in and contribute to the process of conserving assets and earning powers of an organization by minimizing the effects of loss.

4. Business: The OSH professional will be able to develop, articulate, and execute a business case for protecting the company's internal and external assets, stakeholders, and the community.

5. Leadership: The OSH professional will be able to influence the behavior of individuals, systems, and work groups in a way that facilitates the achievement of shared goals.

6. Informatics & Technology: The OSH professional will be able to gather and use credible information and technology to communicate, manage knowledge, mitigate risk, and support decision making.

7. Professionalism: The OSH professional is accountable and establishes workplace programs and worker safety/health advocacy practices in a moral, legal, ethical, and socially responsible manner.

ASSE also thanked Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels for charging NACOSH with exploring how OSHA and NIOSH can encourage more professionals to enter the field of occupational safety and health, and ASSE said his comments at NACOSH's bi-annual meeting are the first time OSHA has directed the committee to examine this issue. A 2011 NIOSH study indicated far fewer trained OSH professionals will be available in coming years than the number that employers expect to hire for their operations.

"For the first time, an advisory committee is taking a serious look at the issue of professionalism and connecting the dots between the quality of the professionals and the strength of the profession," said ASSE President Michael Belcher. "These questions – who does safety now and who will do safety ten, twenty, and thirty years from now – have long been overlooked. We look forward to working with NACOSH on this charge, sharing all the resources and knowledge we have developed from considering these questions, and moving toward long-term solutions that ensure a strong profession made up of passionate and qualified professionals."

Besides Thornton, ASSE President-Elect Thomas Cecich attended the meeting to discuss the issue.

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