When Top Management decides to override the Safety Officers of this world

2014-07-07 15:34

I recently received a telephone call from a very stressed-out contractor. They have been working for their client for the past 10 years without any accident, or misfortune. The client recently appointed a new Safety officer, who has now decided to do things the “right way”.

During a SHE File approval session, the Safety Officer asked for proof of competency of the construction manager, which in the present scenario is not a legal requirement. The construction manager produced a CV, which according to the safety officer is inadequate as it makes no mention of  construction management qualifications.

I immediately went to the SAQA website to determine which qualification could be referred to, as required in the upcoming new definition of a “competent person”. I found a few ranging from B-Degrees to PHD’s in Construction Management. There is no Unit Standard with the same title.

It can thus be safe to say that the Construction Industry in South Africa should with immediate effect put their tools down. Only those sites where the Construction Manager has a B or higher degree in Construction Management are allowed to continue to work.

Alternatively, CEO’s should fire their safety officers with limited skills like the one in my example, and let the show go on.

With people like these carrying the name of the Safety Profession, we should stand ashamed at what mockery this has become.

Professional Bodies like SAIOSH and IOSM, who is accredited by SAQA to issue professional designations should not issue it on face value, but ensure that the people wearing these titles are in fact competent. I do believe it is time we transform the profession, but not in the same light as government would like it. We should transform it from the circus we are making of it, into a real profession. If a construction manager need to have a B-Degree, as required by the safety officer who happens to work for one of the biggest clients in industry, with more than 300 contractors country wide, why do we as CEO’s and Business owners still employ safety officers with one or two week courses?

I have been in this industry for 27 years and every time I hear something like this, I stand ashamed. Why would I want to be associated with this?

Construction companies – the big ones – imposes rules on contractors via incompetent safety officers and consultants – all in the name of legal compliance and “safety”, yet then turn around and rig tenders and break every other rule in the book of laws. Yet, the poor contractor wanting to do business with them, have to submit a SHE file for approval, containing information they have no idea how to put together.

Could somebody please intervene and stop this madness before the safety profession turns this economy in worse condition than AMCU could only wish for.

The SA Council for Project & Construction Management Professions should now for once in their existence take a firm stand and rid society of incompetent safety practitioners and consultants who, due to their position in the supply chain, abuse others trying to do the right thing. SAQA should revise their policy on accrediting professional associations who claim to represent the profession, where in fact they do not have more than 15% of the professionals’ support. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seem to think that forming a body and collecting membership will solve the incompetence contractors have to pay for. Yet none of them are prepared to raise the level of training requirements. Why should they? There is money to be made through incompetence. The less people know, the more we can charge them for our solution to fictitious problems we create for them. We can register a Closed Corporation and convince people we are a non-profit organisation, and even fool SAQA in believing the same. As long as we can collect money from CPD workshops.

Health & safety in South Africa has become the laughing stock of the professional world. Why? What happened to the professionals out there? Nowadays, everyone with experience and properly structured qualifications take on positions in the Middle east, Europe and the Pacific Islands. And we as South African’s have to spend our hard-earned money in meeting requirements of people who claim to know what they are talking about after only 40 hours of learning?

Why do engineers and attorneys and doctors have one or two degrees they need to enter the profession, but when it comes to health & safety officers, anything goes? Where is the control of this profession? Why do we, CEO’s and Board Members tolerate this? We entrust the lives of our entire workforce to these “Wanna-be professionals, but when we get a chest pain, we run to the best qualified cardiologist we can find?

So when top management do decide to override their own safety officers, they have no-one to blame but themselves. They have earned the right to get shoved aside. So, stop whining about your CEO not supporting you and start acting like a professional. Perhaps you will gain the respect of your CEO and maybe, just maybe will he/she support you.

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