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Construction professions applied for health and safety job reservation

Construction professional bodies have applied to the Competition Commission to reserve jobs, including health and safety job reservation.

Comment to the commission expired on 16 August 2013. The Council for the Build Environment (CBE), on behalf of construction health and safety managers currently registering with the SA Council for Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP), as well as Landscape Architects, Property Valuers, Architects and Quality Surveyors, have applied for exemption from the Identification of Work (IDOW) rules in Chapter 2 of the Competition Act.

In terms of the Competition Act Chapter 2, a professional body must apply for exemption in order to create barriers of entry to a profession through registration.

The prohibition against job reservation, including health and safety job reservation and restrictive trade, applies to all bodies, not only statutory bodies such as SACPCMP, but also voluntary health and safety registrars, SAIOSH /IOSH SA, IOSM and SAIOH.

Exemption of SACPCMP, and thus reservation of certain work for registered people, may set a precedent for voluntary bodies to apply for exemption and thus enforcement of their designations on employers and health and safety practitioners.

However, only the top designation of each of the registrars involve a degree, and some practitioners have argued against attempted ‘professionalisation’ and health and safety job reservation for training, experience, and profesiosnal qualifications below tertiary level, as a costly diversion from training and development.

IDOW rules provide for reservation of work for registered professionals with a certain level of competency, and thus prevent non-registered people from performing certain categories of work.

Health and safety professionals not registered with the SACPCMP or construction professional councils, were invited to comment to the Competition Commission on whether the exemption should be granted. The notice was not circulated among health and safety practitioners.

Professional bodies jumped the gun

If the Construction Regulations Amendment of 2013 requires appointment of a client Agent with professional registration, and does not specify Health and Safety Agent, contractors may appoint managers, project managers, engineers, architects or other construction professionals as Agents.

Definitions in the text circulated two years ago, indicate that if a construction manager were appointed as Health and Safety Agent, then the safety practitioner need not be registered, if he or she were an employee of the Agent.

The draft regulations circulated last year, did not specify which SACPCMP category or designation the construction Health and Safety Agent would have to be registered in. There are six categories of SACPCMP designations:
* Construction Manager
* Construction Project Manager
* Construction Health and Safety Agent
* Construction Health and Safety officer
* Construction Mentor
* Professional Construction mentor.

The first four also have Candidate status options, but the draft regulation may well not specify whether a candidate agent could be appointed.

Lobby group DASH said the application for exemption, and thus for health and safety job reservation, was premature, since the legality of construction professional registration was still restricted to the state, via the Department of Public works.

Promulgation of the Construction Regulations by the Department of Labour in October or November 2013, may enforce registration of built environment professionals for the first time.

Comment on Construction Regulations 2013 refused

“We were in discussions with DOL to make registration of health and safety professionals specific to the SACPCMP”, said DASH administrator Rudy Maritz. “However DOL has responded via Tibor Szana that the comment period was closed.

“DOL also said that The Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety (ACOHS) and the Chief Inspector will sign off on the document for presentation to the Minister, and will not circulate a copy of the Draft Construction Regulations prior to promulgation.

“We asked the Competition Commission to investigate the matter further, as a similar situation is arising with voluntary associations using their SAQA recognition as registrars to punt for membership, and asking employers to specify their designations conditions of employment.

“It has even been publicly advocated as a legal requirement to register in terms of SAQA requirements. It is clear that some professional bodies do not understand the purpose of their SAQA recognition.”

DASH advised the commission to “tread carefully as any decisions you make, may be against the Constitution.”

• For background, or to comment via DASH lobby group, visit http://dashforum.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/professional-registration-may-not-be-needed/

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