Re: [SystemSafety] Competence Criteria for Safety Practitioners

From: Andrew Rae < >
Date: Sat, 19 Jul 2014 13:09:43 +0100


Carl,
I agree with you absolutely that we shouldn't have someone setting themselves up as "arbiters of safety competence" in a similar sense, for example, to Chartered Engineer status. I think there is enough problem with Chartered status trying to define a minimum but sufficient set of skills to be considered an engineer without adding the complexities of different meanings of "safety practitioner".

I think there is a wide middle ground between that and offering very generic advice to companies on setting up a competency scheme. There is a difference too between offering practical advice and providing guidelines of the current form. They aren't practical considerations, there are an actual structure for a competency scheme that isn't being offered. Practical considerations wouldn't be "there are three levels called X, Y and Z" they would be "If you you really must have levels in your scheme, make sure you have a way of writing criteria for how people fit in the levels and move between them".

(As an aside: One of my favorite gripes with the current guidelines - in many cases you cannot qualify for a level without already performing work which requires competency at that level, thereby forcing you to either act outside your competency first, or never be able to demonstrate a higher competency).

I think there is a real need for standardisation of competency recognition. One of the ways to achieve this is an accreditation scheme. Another is guidelines that provide standardisation. What needs standardisation is the particular competencies though. Lists of _which_ competencies are required are the sort of thing that can be offered as suggestions, but are really bespoke to companies not something for an external organisation to judge what is needed. For example:

Company A says that a staff member is "Competent in Fault Tree Analysis" at Practioner Level

Company B says that a role requires someone who can:

   Read and interpret fault trees
   Explain fault tree notation
   Describe the strengths and weaknesses of fault trees as an analysis method

Education provider C provides a course whith learning objective that students can "Understand Fault Tree Analysis at a basic level"

Is the staff member from A eligible to take the role at Company B? What about someone who has taken the course from Education Provider C?

How does Company D fill their own duty of care when selecting someone from A, B or C that the person is actually competent?

A good set of guidelines, regardless of the accreditation, should have a set of well written safety competencies, with suggestions on how they can be acquired and demonstrated. There should also be sample sets of competencies, with a clear understanding that they aren't prescriptive for any particular role.

I also think that some form of accreditation and recognition of competencies is desirable, and is why we have professional bodies in the first place. You are right that SARS is trying to push to have control, but it's control that IET has rejected. Without any criticism of specific individuals, as a body IET's interest in safety as a professional community has been as a marketplace to sell things to, not maintaining and growing professional standards. I would welcome a reversal of that position.

My system safety podcast: http://disastercast.co.uk My phone number: +44 (0) 7783 446 814
University of York disclaimer:
http://www.york.ac.uk/docs/disclaimer/email.htm

On 19 July 2014 11:54, Carl Sandom <carl_at_xxxxxx

> 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
>
> Carl
>
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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
>
>
>
> Carl,
>
> 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.
>
> - Are you aware of any other safety competence guidelines?
>
> The SARS accreditation scheme is the most developed I've seen recently. I
> haven't been involved for a while though.
>
>
>
>
> My system safety podcast: http://disastercast.co.uk
> My phone number: +44 (0) 7783 446 814
> University of York disclaimer:
> http://www.york.ac.uk/docs/disclaimer/email.htm
>
>
>
> 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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