Shane Lishman takes a look at the international HSE Body of Knowledge and ask a few thought-provoking questions, we all need to answer introspectively.
“It is extremely rare that the developed and developing countries around the world bring the latest in HSE practices to South Africa. In 2011 I attempted to introduce Workplace Health Psychology (Occupational Health Psychology) to the HSE fraternity via a series of surveys, papers and talks. Although at the time persons were interested, it never evolved. I now see a few articles in SA Magazines regarding Workplace Stress and the like. However, we are at best 10 years behind international research, published legislation etc.
Having worked in South Africa, Africa and abroad, I realise that we are still moving at a snail’s pace with respect to international companies’ approach to health and safety. Most companies are satisfied with what they have, and more alarmingly, the HSE Practitioners are not keeping up with international best practice or trends. Are we so complacent that we feel that our knowledge base is adequate for new technologies, research and methods? Are we better than HSE Practitioners from other countries, are we more knowledgeable, have we better experience? Is our own HSE Body of Knowledge better than the rest of the world?
Those practitioners who work abroad sometimes have a great time not needing to do any more than that what is expected in RSA. Others however, meet the harsh reality that what is expected, is so much more. It are these practitioners that gain vastly from working with large international companies in foreign land.
The real problem that it creates is that the home-grown HSE Practitioner who has not ventured beyond the borders, or are new in the HSE field, lose out on the experience that is brought back to South Africa. This ever-spiralling, sink-hole of knowledge is disappearing, when transfer of experience and knowledge is not passed on to other practitioners and to those who wish a career in HSE.
Are we still the flower-pot that sits in the corner?
How many, for example are familiar with nano-technology, nano-particles and the HSE hazards associated with the above, or the fact that more persons with work related stress are booked off sick than actual physical injuries? That some of our legislation, is far behind actual present-day technology, (although I believe our legislation is good), new technology brings new hazards and therefore new controls and new approaches. Has our HSE Body of Knowledge been updated? ARE WE KEEPING UP TO DATE?
Are we still defining accident theories in the same way? Are we still investigating accidents and still not referring to energy transfer in our controls, or lack of them? Are confined spaces still approached in the “it will be OK because the meter tells us so” – but the understanding of the numbers is absent. I speak to many South African Practitioners who are despondent about the profession – although there is much help out there for growth, and others who are still content to be the HSE “Practicer”.
The real question is hopefully not – ARE YOU A HSE PRACTITIONER OR A HSE PRACTICER?
I wrote a few years ago (2011) and subsequently published survey results that found that HSE Practitioners in South Africa said that they believe UK qualifications (80%) were best; 62% believed SA Qualifications were best and 57% believed Australian qualifications were best.
We are now in 2018, and I wonder what the results would look like now, especially that seven years later, new and modern approaches to many facets of the profession has changed? Are we still the change agents willing to learn?
(Shane Lishman is the author of the “Best International Practice” series that he is bringing to South Africa for the HSE Practitioner”)