Ergonomics done right.®
September 19th, 2008

Safety Professionals and Respect – Part 2 – Homer Simpson

Homer_simpson A recent post at the OSHA Underground blog relates that Safety Engineers feel that they get little respect, and we agree that the frustration many professionals feel is real and a burden to success, not only in construction, as was indicated, but in all industries.

In our last post on this topic, we suggested that a safety professional’s inability to equate safety initiatives with business value led to these efforts not being valued by their colleagues. A focus on ROI is potentially the antidote.

In this post, we’d like to address the second major cause of this frustration. In this case, the problem is not with the safety professional, but with their employers.

Anyone can be labeled a "safety professional", but not everyone can BE a "safety professional". Remember the Simpson’s episode when Homer was made the Safety Officer because he caused most of the accidents at the nuclear power plant? Many well meaning employers (guided or not by HR) will title and enable people as the "safety professional" without fully understanding the profession, qualifications, or implications. This is not limited to just safety. I know of one global microchip manufacturer who titled their maintenance technicians "engineers" giving a false sense of security and knowing to those individuals, the rest of the plant, and the outside world.

Most HR executives I’ve talked with do not know what makes a person a qualified safety professional. Nor are they aware of the valid certifications that help identify qualified professionals. Would you select your personal health care physician because they were called Doctor or would you insist that they were board certified? BCSP, ABIH, and BCPE are a few of the organizations that provide board certification for safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomic professionals.

Many organizations and businesses offer "certifications" in safety and ergonomics, and they are correct; if you complete their courses, they will provide you with a certificate (i.e. piece of paper) indicating you completed the class. However, "board certified" is another thing. It indicates the bearer has the academic background and work experience, has completed an examination demonstrating their competency, and maintains that level of competency through ongoing professional development and work experience. Looking for certification by a recognized board is a quick and reliable way to screen for qualified candidates for a safety/environmental/ergonomics professional role.

As safety and ergonomic professionals, we need to continue to inform and educate business leaders, hiring managers, and staffing personnel of what a true professional is. This is the only way to get ahead of the Homer Simpson perception that some hold of our profession.