The auditing of safety-related competencies is relatively easy when we consider occupational licences and qualifications, making sure that those personnel that drive a forklift or enter a confined space have a licence or a qualification. All of this is relatively straightforward.

However, assessing of the level of competency of the safety personnel within the organisation gets more complicated, and sometimes the discussion becomes a personal issue, rather than a personnel issue.

Ensuring that an organisation has sufficient qualified and competent personnel to implement its management system must be assessed properly and considered as part of the Due Diligence assessment in terms of ‘resourcing’.

There is a need to ensure that the right skillsets are aligned to each role, and more importantly that the appropriate minimum qualification requirements are specified (and this will aid the recruitment and selection process).

Until relatively recently the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) provided the structure for interpreting the skillsets provided by each level of qualification. Now the Occupational Health and Safety Professional Capability Framework provides a more detailed approach across the various WHS practitioner and professional roles, while also linking to the AQF structure, for example:

  • The Framework specifies that an OHS Advisor is Practitioner Level 2 with a key purposeto contribute to maintenance of a safe and healthy work environment by implementing and monitoring OHS systems and processes in their local area”. The role “Interacts with and influences operational, supervisory and line and middle management…” while undertaking “a range of work that is largely routine, but sometimes complex, in a specified range of work environments”. It is aligned to AQF level 5, or a Diploma level qualification.
  • The Framework specifies that an OHS Manager is Professional Level 2 with a key purpose “to apply leadership, specialist skills and knowledge of the OHS evidence base to provide strategic direction and support to managers”. The role “Develops relationships with senior management, OHS Professionals and Practitioners to create/influence OHS-related policy, objectives and strategy and to act as a change agent to support improvement in OHS” and “creatively performs a range of highly complex OHS activities and leads on formulation, implementation and evaluation of OHS strategy”. It is aligned to AQF level 7, or a Bachelor’s Degree.

The Occupational Health and Safety Professional Capability Framework provides a structured comparison of the requirements of each role across the disciplines of OHS Systems Management, Organisational Culture, OHS Risk Management, Performance & Evaluation, Knowledge Management and Communication and Influence.

While we recognise that University qualifications are not the be all and end all, there is a need to ensure that personnel employed within organisations to assist with the management of WHS have the right skillsets to achieve the requirements of the role.

In practice, the expectations of the role need to be captured in the position description, and this needs to align with the qualifications, and should become the basis of the recruitment and selection process. Where there is a gap in the skillset of a current employee it’s important to recognise the gap and develop plans for upskilling.

Please contact QRMC for more information.