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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters


Time for review

CARL AMMON, general manager of the NZITO, explains what the current review of New Zealand’s OHS qualifications means for the industry.

The NZ Qualifications Authority has a mandate to review the qualifications framework in each subject area to streamline the qualifications on offer by removing duplications, and to create pathways that people can use to develop their careers.

In the case of OHS, there are currently three national qualifications on the framework – a very low level introductory course, a generic level 3 qualification that covers a lot of technical skills, and a practical qualification for safety supervisors at level 4.

Alongside these, however, is a proliferation of other similar qualifications offered by polytechnics, private training institutes and so on. To conduct our review we have had to get all the training providers together and do our best to arrive at a qualifications system that meets the needs of everyone.

When this is finalised there will be a transition period of between 12 and 24 months so providers can bring their courses into line with the new framework. This may sound like a big thing, but for most it will just mean giving existing courses different numbers and names.

For instance, North Tec runs a course in confined space entry and so does the Southern Institute of Technology. At the moment they have different names and numbers, but they’re essentially the same. By standardising these things across the country we will remove a bit of confusion, because people working in the same industry around the country will do the same qualification.

Raising the bar

The review will do is ensure all qualifications meet a certain standard, which will also raise the bar if any existing courses aren’t quite up to the mark.

However there will still be plenty of leeway for industry groups or companies to tailor a qualification to their particular needs. While there will be an approved programme, there is nothing to stop North Tec, for instance, focusing around oil refining, while Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology might want a course aimed at the seafood industry. With the qualifications framework there is one system, but it’s in the public domain and anyone can use it, so long as they meet NZQA’s quality requirements.

One thing about health and safety is that a lot of what we benchmark against comes from statutes and guidelines. This helps keep a sense of commonality in terms of expectations, although there are still some differences of opinion.

One area where there has been a bit of tension is around career pathways. NZQA wants a defined pathway that can take you from a safety rep to an OHS professional, but some in the industry would prefer qualifications that deliver specific technical skills, with a bit more choice of skills and a bit less emphasis on career paths.

Once we get consensus on matters like these, which we hope to do by the end of the year, we can notify NZQA that we are going to bring in the new qualifications and they will gradually remove the copycat versions from their list. Providers who have offered the alternative courses will use the transition period to change the numbers on the forms and make sure everything’s in order.

Diploma programme

The other thing we are looking at, in consultation with organisations like the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management and the New Zealand Safety Council, is the development of a national diploma – a professional level qualification for OHS practitioners.

This will be a university level qualification, at level 5 or 6. While NZQA recognises the NZIM Diploma in Health and Safety Management and SIT’s Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, there are currently no national diplomas at this level in New Zealand. This is a gap and it’s been agreed in principle that we need to fill it.

We’ve been looking at the level 5 and 6 qualifications used by the industry, most of which are from Australia or Britain, and will probably design something similar. There is still a lot to be done and it will take at least 12 months after we agree to go ahead to put the structure together.

The NZQA timetable means our work w ill largely be finished before the Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety releases its findings next April. With so many different players and perspectives involved it is difficult for us to reach consensus, so it might make sense to put things on hold and wait for a national strategy to provide a template for how things ought to be organised.

That’s a decision for the Qualifications Authority, however.

CARL AMMON

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