Re: [SystemSafety] Competence Criteria for Safety Practitioners

From: Carl Sandom < >
Date: Sat, 19 Jul 2014 10:54:41 +0000

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your interesting comments.

I don't really understand the apparent contradiction between stating that there is no need for competence guidelines (as such) but there is a need for organizations to assess the competence of their staff. Without some starting point such as guidelines how would an organization know what constitutes 'best practice' in terms of safety competencies?

Perhaps we need to agree to disagree on the topic of enforcing competence schemes such as the one that SaRS are advocating. I don't think it should be the responsibility of any single organization (like IET) to take on the role of 'arbiters of safety competence' which would effectively make the practice of safety engineering a 'closed shop'. In my opinion some organizations have seen this issue as a way of exerting control over the safety community and expanding their influence. Most organization operating in both regulated and non-regulated safety-related domains are responsible for the competence of their own safety staff and that's why in my opinion guidelines are an invaluable starting point. I really don't agree that the originator of a set of guidelines needs to be 'a player' to make those guidelines worthwhile.

BTW, I assume you deliberately wanted to keep your response off the system safety mailing list?

Best Regards

Dr. Carl Sandom CEng FIET MIEHF
iSys Integrity Limited
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From: Andrew Rae [mailto:andrew.rae_at_xxxxxx Sent: 18 July 2014 16:36
To: Carl Sandom
Cc: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Subject: Re: [SystemSafety] Competence Criteria for Safety Practitioners

We had a close look at the IET guidelines when we were discussing accreditation (for safety practitioners, but particularly with a view to accrediting courses) with SARS. A quick answer:
• Is there a general need for competence guidelines for safety practitioners? Not as such. There is a need for organisations to assess the competency of their staff, to know whether particular means of improving competency (eg training or education) are going to fill gaps, and for individuals to be able to acquire and demonstrate competency in a way that is transferable. The IET has never shown willing to take on this role, and guidelines independent of a proper competency scheme are always going to be overly vague and general.

• If you are familiar with the IET document: o Is it suitable in its current form?

No. The problems are numerous.

1st main problem:
It has a view of competency "levels" that is next to useful. The whole "supervised practioner", "practitioner", "Expert" idea is unworkable in a field where what is important is the ability to conduct specific tasks competently. To avoid any other controversy, let's take an imaginary technique of "flobbing".   Can I flobb?
  Can I write guidelines on how to flobb or teach others how to flobb?   Can I act as an informed customer of flobb?   Can I review flobbs?

These are all separate competencies, acquired and demonstrated in separate ways. 2nd main problem:
It doesn't adequately recognise that any safety practitioner role really has three separate competency sets:

   Competency generic to the practice of safety (e.g. most safety management skills fall here)    Domain knowledge
   Knowledge of safety techniques particular to the domain A competency scheme needs to avoid setting out the particular competencies relevant for a particular role, because they all have a different subset of each of these, but it can't ignore the master list of competencies or it is useless as guidance.

o Does it need to be revised?
Not unless the IET is genuinely willing to get involved in safety competency development and accreditation. Non-players shouldn't be offering advice to players. This isn't to say that IET involvement wouldn't be welcome, but the willingness of some individuals associated with IET has never been backed by a commitment at the organisation level.

My system safety podcast: My phone number: +44 (0) 7783 446 814
University of York disclaimer:

On 18 July 2014 12:13, Carl Sandom <carl_at_xxxxxx In 1999 the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in collaboration with the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and British Computer Society (BCS) published the “Competence Criteria for Safety-Related System Practitioners”. This work was revised in 2007 and published only as a PDF download. The principal purpose of the document is to help safety practitioners assess and maintain the competence of their engineering staff. The IET are currently developing a business case with a view to revising these guidelines and it will be seeking wide consultation and clarity on approach, format, etc.

Initially, the IET want to determine the general opinion of safety practitioners on this topic. Does anyone on this list have a view on the following broad questions?

• Is there a general need for competence guidelines for safety practitioners?

• If you are familiar with the IET document:

o Is it suitable in its current form?

o Does it need to be revised?

• Are you aware of any other safety competence guidelines?

Best Regards
Carl Sandom
iSys Integrity Ltd.

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