A licence to bill

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has enlisted the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the British Safety Council (BSC) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in discussions that could lead to all safety practitioners being required to become licensed.

It appears that the proposal is for licensing to be voluntary and it’s unlikely that those practitioners who are not licensed will volunteer that information; it will be dependent on the client to:

a) Know that there is such a thing as a licensed practitioner
b) Know what difference that makes
c) Perhaps be willing to pay more for a someone who is licensed.

Other countries have different approaches; Spain licenses both the company and individual (which can be a bureaucratic nightmare); Germany does it through Insurance companies. In this country it’s not about reducing accidents, it’s about reducing liability. Unless we’re very careful the licensing process could remove the means to improve.

Safety practitioners would be like accountants and solicitors – licensed to trade in their profession. They may be knowledgeable, but when it comes to experience there’s the issue of do they have ten years of experience, or one year of experience repeated ten times? And personal attributes become irrelevant when it comes to paper qualifications.

It could be a double edged sword! Licensing does mean better quality of knowledge and experience is proven, but can also mean that person will slavishly follow the rules, even when there’s a case for not doing so.

It is already a legal requirement that safety practitioners are competent – but it’s the employer’s responsibility to establish whether the practitioner they employ – internally or externally – fulfils this requirement. The cost of licensing practitioners will mean less practical application of knowledge and experience and more obedience to the statutory rules.

Whilst people like me, who are prepared to fight the rules, could still be licensed, it does mean that mavericks would be discouraged!