Safety management is not just a job — it is an honorable profession. Safety professionals and practitioners are all of the safety managers, directors and coordinators currently working for companies today. They do not have to be certified, nor do they need a lot of letters after their names, but it is to their advantage and to that of the companies they work for to have certification.
Professional certification can be found in almost every industry. Certification as a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) or Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) identifies an individual’s level of competency in the field of safety. The CSP or CHST certifications identify individuals who have met educational and experience standards and passed examinations which have been validated by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP). These are not the only accredited certifications available, but in my opinion, they are the most recognized safety certifications by government agencies and employers.
In the past 20 years, the responsibility of safety professionals in all industries has expanded. Safety issues and regulations have become more complex, and today’s safety professionals must be continually better qualified — and one way to accomplish this is to achieve and maintain certification.
CSPs are among the most highly educated, trained and experienced in the safety field. A CSP has met education and experience standards, has demonstrated by examination his or her knowledge of professional safety practices and continues to meet recertification requirements established by the BCSP.
The CHST is a certification awarded by the BCSP to safety practitioners who meet and continue to meet all requirements established by the BCSP. The BCSP awards the CHST certification to individuals who demonstrate competency and work in safety and health activities devoted to the prevention of construction injuries and illness. Candidates for the CHST certification are typically employed as safety specialists by construction companies and are responsible for safety on one or more significant construction projects. Many CHSTs use their designation as a stepping stone to greater roles in safety and health.
Education, knowledge and communication are necessary to being an effective safety director. Today, safety directors have to be professionals. They must be knowledgeable about the type of work the company performs, concepts of safety management, safety and environmental regulations, safety technology, communication, training and more. In many respects, the only way to obtain all the information they need is to study the right materials — most of which are required references for taking the examinations for certification.
Just knowing about OSHA regulations is not enough to be an effective safety manager, director or coordinator. Anyone can be assigned the position, but just like a good project manager, he or she must possess the necessary knowledge and qualifications to accomplish the tasks.
Safety professionals and practitioners help their companies create and implement safety programs for the benefit of their coworkers and their employers. With this in mind, I encourage NUCA members and all construction companies to consider encouraging their safety personnel to work toward achieving accredited safety certifications like the ones mentioned above.
Safety and health professionals are and will continue to be hard to find, so why not groom your current safety personnel? Sure there is a cost for the application and examination fees, as well as an annual renewal fee. But these minor expenses are an investment in your company’s safety program and all the benefits that come along with having a professional manage the program. And, you may have to give your newly certified employee a pat on the back and salary increase too, but think of the expenses that follow an accident or inspection by a regulatory agency like OSHA. Certified individuals can honestly make a difference because they are better educated and informed.
The BCSP provides a host of information about how your safety personnel can become certified. You can find information about the different levels and types of certifications, academic requirements, reference material, study guides, cost, frequently asked questions, salary survey and more. All you have to do is visit its website at www.bcsp.org.
In addition to encouraging and helping your safety personnel achieve certification, there are other things you can do to assist them in improving their ability to improve your company safety programs. One of those things is to provide them with the support and opportunity to belong to professional safety organizations such as the American Society of Safety Engineers (www.ASSE.org) or the National Safety Council (www.NSC.org). Both of these organizations have a construction division, as well as local chapters. They also conduct regular meetings, annual conferences and provide plenty of educational opportunities.
Safety personnel should also be given the opportunity to participate in NUCA’s Safety Committee meetings and annual Safety Directors Forum (November 2013), Excavation Safety and Confined Space Entry training programs, chapter safety committees and forums. (All of which focus on safety in the utility and excavation construction industry.) The NUCA safety networking opportunities exist, but safety personnel have to be given the financial support and time to participate. Many NUCA members have taken advantage of all NUCA has to offer for safety and they will tell you it was well worth it. Visit NUCA’s website (www.NUCA.com) for more information about safety and safety-related events.
Companies that invest in their safety personnel generally find that the investment pays for itself because they have fewer accidents which are followed by reduced insurance costs, less lost time and less damage to equipment, property and materials. Most importantly, employees go home to their families at night knowing their employer cares about their well-being because knowledgeable — preferably, certified — safety personnel are working hard to ensure a safe place to work.
George Kennedy is NUCA Vice President of Safety.