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Charting the course for the safety profession

By Eldeen Pozniak

I have to admit that a “safety professional” was not my first answer, and I definitely would not have known then what I needed to do to become one.

When I became involved in this career choice some 20 years ago, it looked a lot different than it does today. Don’t get me wrong, the basics are still the same — identify hazards, assess risks, assist and advise as to their control for the prevention of loss. But it is now also all the other things around it: where am I positioned in the organization or the workplace; the ever-growing list of activities and tools to utilize, including an increased emphasis on soft skills to sell, motivate and facilitate; changing philosophies in approach from traditional to behavioral to management of change; changes in what makes us credible and hirable with experience and education balance. And the list goes on.

Whether it is at a safety conference in Canada, the UK or Australia, or on a variety of web based discussion strings on sites such as LinkedIn, professionalism, core competencies and body of knowledge are always being discussed and commented upon.

This is such a big topic area that many safety professionals often find themselves asking, “Where do we start?” How about starting with ourselves and figuring out where we might want to be?

Personally, I have always believed that if I don’t get involved in determining my career, someone else will — and I might not like it.

Or should we be asking ourselves: is safety management really a profession? Or at least, should we be going in that direction?

There are many organizations around the world who are looking at the future of the safety profession — studying, challenging and playing a role in determining where we should go. In this blog I plan to share some of those perspectives with my fellow safety professionals. I also hope that if you know of similar initiatives, you can forward the information my way.

One thing I will be sharing with you is information from INSHPO, the International Network of Safety and Health Professional Organizations, a group of like-minded individuals really focused on taking the occupational health and safety profession to the next level. 

INSHPO is currently conducting a research project, headed by Andrew Hale, that will review and compare what each country has in place for determining what the occupational health and safety professional looks like. Hale is a professor of safety science at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and has published several research papers on occupational health and safety.  

The study will review a number of items, including the BCRSP survey results and criteria for core competencies, and publications such as the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s and the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Career Guide for the Safety Profession.

Check this blog regularly for updates on the findings on this INSHPO study. We hope to complete the study this year. 

I hope we can have a meaningful discussion about the health and safety profession. This is the time for us to set the stage and play a role in determining what the occupational safety and health profession should look like.

Do you consider what we do a profession? What should we be called — professionals, practitioners, consultants, advisors or officers? What are the core competencies and the body of knowledge necessary to be the best in our work? Who is working on this and determining these things here in Canada and on a global scale?

In this blog, we are going to explore and comment on these questions. I am looking forward to a meaningful exchange with my fellow safety professionals.

Eldeen Pozniak

Eldeen Pozniak is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional, a Certified Health and Safety Consultant, a certified health and safety management system auditor, and a chartered member of the U.K.-based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. She is a past president of the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering. She is also the president and owner of Diggins Safety Consulting, and the director of Pozniak Safety Associates. She can be reached through
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