The Health & Safety profession is relatively new in the job market, but it has evolved, growing into a career path in which you can obtain a doctorate in.

Sadly there are too many training bodies with vested interests in shaping our profession along with the "oldies" who have been actually undertaking health & safety roles longer than Diplomas, Masters & Doctorates have been around.

If I look at the differences out there in industry that creates some of the conundrum, you may have a better idea of what I am referring to:

If I was to undertake a Certificate IV through VIOSH (Victorian Industry Occupation Safety & Health) one of the universities offering Health & Safety courses probably for the longest here in Australia, and actually attracting overseas students to study based on its reputation. I would need to set aside around 600 hours study and 2 weeks of my time to attend residential school. Having done this course and basing all my assignments around the industry I work in, I am likely to come out as a well rounded individual, having shared many hours in my study group with like minded people, and learnt from their own experiences.

But.... If I was to attend a Master Builders Certificate 4 course (anywhere in Australia) I would need to attend 6 days of school and give a presentation to my fellow students at the end, undertake some questions, that can easily be answered with a further 12 hours of external study. I too would gain my certificate. Sadly I would not focus on things like Hazardous Substances, because although used within the industry, their risks are not perceived as high, and the knowledge base does not need to support the same outcomes from attending the other course, which actually involved the completion of a 40 hour assignment, allocated within the 600 study hours.

Then the other aspect to consider in these 2 courses, is a minor thing called cost. The Cert IV via VIOSH is around the $2000 - $2500 mark and the Master Builders Course which is subsidised by Incolink & your Master Builders Membership, could be free, or a small fee of around $60.

Do the maths!

So we have just produced 2 students with the same qualifications, and you tell me its pretty obvious which one you would choose to engage.

Sadly, many of the companies doing the engagement of safety professionals cannot know of the large differences I have pointed out here, or the personality of the person being engaged to "consult & collaborate" with your organisation.

The health & safety professional can "weld" a lot of power within some organisations, that are high risk and venerable to public image or the power of the union.

So, you ask what is the solution, its not quiet so cut and dried, because I have left out the pioneers of the industry, the people, who can manage hazards and risks sufficiently without the letters proceeding their names, that don't get a look in due to this lack of "fanfare" of recognised qualification (after all, we are professionals, you can be one if you have undertaken study)

I then make reference to a book called "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell has taken the time to study various professional, educational and successful people to determine what it takes to make someone in the "blink of an eye" have the knowledge to determine when something is right or wrong and do something about it. Gladwell outlines how 10,000 hrs, which equates to about 10 years at your profession, wether sporting or business or otherwise equips you with sufficient knowledge and learning to be pretty good at what you do.

On the other hand, there is another point of view. You can work in an organisation for 10 years, so you have 10 years of experience, or do you have 1 year, 10 times over?

When my son used to come home from school relating someone of the things he's seen or heard, professing to be an "expert" on the subject, I used to say, and still do "You have no right to a "opinion" until you have had an experience, it is only through experiencing something, that you have gained knowledge, and knowledge together with experience creates wisdom.

Successful people, sporting or business have succeed today based on the failures of the past, they have taken the learning from these experiences and grown to be the successful people that they are.