BCRSP, CSSE chairs push national safety conversation forward
Q&A with BCRSP's Monica Szabo and CSSE's Trevor Johnson
Marcel Vander Wier
Monica Szabo (BCRSP) and Trevor Johnson (CSSE) — the two chairs of Canada’s national safety boards — recently opened up about their roles and desires for the occupational health and safety profession.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
OHS Canada: Can you explain the mandates of your respective organizations (BCRSP/CSSE)?
Monica Szabo: Located in Mississauga, Ont., the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP) sets certification standards for the occupational health and safety profession. Through the Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) and Canadian Registered Safety Technician (CRST) certifications, we enable OHS practitioners to demonstrate their expertise.
Trevor Johnson: Located in Toronto, the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) is the governing body for the Certified Health and Safety Consultant (CHSC) certification and offers nine professional-development courses. With a network of 40 chapters, the CSSE provides an opportunity for members and potential members to connect in their communities.
What unique perspectives do you bring to your respective boards?
MS: With over 25 years of experience in occupational hygiene and safety, I bring senior leadership experience, ensuring a focus on broad strategic goals and also field-level experience — which helps me ensure the board keeps in mind the needs of our certificants. I was a member of the board about a decade ago and believe that the historical knowledge I bring has benefited our board and helped us recognize our previous achievements as we continue our efforts to move the safety profession forward.
TJ: I have been actively involved with the CSSE for over 20 years in various capacities at the committee, chapter and national level. I also bring experience in governance and management. I feel that we as a board have collectively moved the CSSE towards a more sustainable structure and outlook over the past few years. We have taken the vision of the strategic plan and are building a new structure for the CSSE to prosper and grow in the future.
What type of effort is your board making at the national and global levels?
MS: Nationally and globally, the BCRSP is active in promoting the value of certification and recognition of the OHS professional. We have collaborative relationships with the CSSE and recently we signed an agreement with the Women in Occupational Health and Safety Society (WOHSS). Through these partnerships we seek opportunities to collaborate and advance the profession.
We are also engaged in conversations provincially with various government and organizational bodies on the potential for the regulation of the occupational health and safety profession — including discussion on the national framework for the practice of OHS in Canada. The main purpose of this framework is to define a system of organization to ensure co-ordinated efforts as the regulatory conversation takes place across the country.
Globally, BCRSP’s certifications are recognized through several memoranda of understanding — including with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety, the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (formerly SIA), and the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health.
BCRSP is also an active member in the International Network of Safety and Health Professional Organisations (INSHPO) and a signatory to the Singapore Accord which commits us to recognition of the INSHPO global capability framework as a resource.
TJ: This is a two-pronged approach. First and foremost, we are a member-driven society. We have to ensure that there is member value from experienced leaders right down to our smallest chapter level. We have initiated a member value proposition task force to focus on exactly that and also to ensure that we are receiving feedback on our efforts.
The second prong is our outreach and our partnerships with like-minded organizations, nationally and internationally. We are active partners in International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations (INSHPO) who have developed the global capability framework that professionals can use to assess their capabilities and has since been adopted by Canada’s post-secondary educational institutions as a basis for curriculum.
Another initiative is our partnership with the Centre for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS). We are spreading the word that companies cannot be sustainable without caring about and for their workers.
By being involved in initiatives like these, we are bringing value to our membership and the companies and industries in which they work. We are ensuring that Canada’s voice is heard and our input is used to develop new standards and engage companies and governments to improve the working environment for workers at home and abroad.
What do you think is the most pressing issue in occupational health and safety today?
MS: From a certification perspective, there are several issues that we have been discussing, including the impact of changing technology on the role of the OHS practitioner, the impact of changing demographics in the workplace, a shortage of qualified OHS practitioners and an increased recognition of the value that qualified OHS practitioners bring to the workplace.
There is also interest and discussion in the certification world around micro-credentialing, specialization, value proposition and transportability of credentials. Collaboration and communication between certifying and membership bodies in the health and safety arena — especially within Canada — is critical to ensure our chosen profession remains current, valuable and viable.
TJ: On one hand, it’s compliance — not only the poor performance, but also our focus upon it. Our OH&S systems and approaches are not aligned with how we now work as a society. Our focus is on lagging indicators instead of leading ones. We need to get better at communicating that safety is a value addition to our organizations, not a cost on our budget and a reactive crisis management tool.
The second is that OH&S is not represented in the current corporate structure of senior management or at the board of director and governance levels. We need to get influence and have a presence there if we are going to be able to move from strict compliance to systems where we add strategic value.
How are you using your influence to instil change within the profession?
MS: The CRSP Examination Blueprints are revised at least every five years, as the BCRSP has always been responsive to the changes coming in the profession and ensuring the certification competencies include emerging issues. The most recent revision includes a competency around new and emerging technologies to ensure we are tackling the changes that will be taking place in the workplace.
In the last revision of the continuous professional development (CPD) program — which is a mandatory requirement for certified individuals — we also increased emphasis on activities such as mentorship in order to encourage certified professionals to actively engage in supporting other practitioners in their career development.
TJ: I am working to engage leaders in discussions about the value and importance of human capital and OH&S within their organizational strategic plans for sustainable and successful companies. Our entire board is focused upon providing member value and education that will allow them to be key players in this new environment.
We are also part of a national framework initiative, partnering with the BCRSP in developing OH&S into a true profession. This is a journey and a conversation that we are taking across the country to our membership and stakeholders. Hopefully it will entrench the value of OH&S into corporate governance structure and encourage today’s students ahead of a lifetime career in the profession.