Certified Health and Safety Consultants bring standards to the profession

CHSCs adhere to professional code of conduct

Laurence Polley had been president of C&R Engineered Solutions in Milton, Ont., for three years when he decided he needed to boost his consulting credentials. He worked actively in safety compliance engineering, including helping organizations complete accident investigations and respond to Ministry of Labour orders, and he wanted to take his knowledge to the next level, he said.

“I’m a professional engineer and I wanted a designation that would show people I was even more than that — something that would give an indication I was involved in safety compliance,” he said.

Polley applied for the Certified Health and Safety Consultant (CHSC) designation in 2000 from the Canadian Society for Safety Engineering (CSSE). The designation was instituted in 1994 and promotes excellence in professional consulting in the occupational health, safety or environment field (OHSE) and to business, industry and government agencies at all levels, according to the CSSE.

“The CHSC is really meant for somebody who is advanced in the OHS and environment profession — someone who has other technical designations or certifications and is looking for that next level,” said Dylan Short, director of educational services at the CSSE.

At first glance, many people think the certification is only for external consultants but it is also for internal consultants, health and safety generalists and technicians, he said.

Individuals who are interested in obtaining the CHSC must have a minimum of five continuous years’ work experience in occupational health and safety within the previous seven years. They must also have successfully completed a one-year college or university certificate or diploma  program in OHSE, (minimum 300 instruction hours) or a two-year, non-OHSE certificate or diploma program (minimum 600 instruction hours).

Candidates must complete an application for CSSE to review. If they are successful, the candidates must complete six courses and receive at least 75 per cent in the examination for each course. The courses include applied risk communication, consulting skills, legal obligations and liabilities, measurement and evaluation in OHS managed systems, leadership development and project management.

“The courses help individuals develop skills of a senior professional,” said Short. “They bring together some softer skills, like communication, so candidates learn how to communicate to various parties at various levels and present ideas to them.”
The communications course has been one of the most helpful in Polley’s career, he said.

“Just knowing what to say and what to put in a report or what to leave out is very helpful,” said Polley. “When you’re involved in accident investigations that include fatalities, you need to be very careful about what you say and who you say it to because it will be scrutinized at various levels.” 

Each course is two days in length and is offered at a variety of locations across the country. The cost per course is $749 for CSSE members and $949 for non-members. Individuals have five years to complete the courses.

Applicants must also provide evidence of liability insurance (minimum $1 million) or company indemnification equivalent.
Once all the requirements have been met, the individual will receive the certification and can attach the acronym to the end of his name.

CHSC holders much complete various maintenance requirements to maintain their designation. Every five years, they must submit a record of their activities totaling 100 points from activities in three key areas.

“Having a maintenance program in place ensures individuals are staying engaged and involved in the profession,” said Short.
For the continuing education component, each hour of education counts as one point and individuals must complete a minimum of 20 points over a five-year period in this area, with a maximum of 50 points.

“We want to ensure individuals are staying current in the profession,” said Short. “If you got the CHSC in 1998 and haven’t done anything since, it doesn’t really hold the individual or the designation to a very high standard.”

Polley attends CSSE’s professional development conference each year as well as a variety of courses throughout the year to fulfill this maintenance requirement.

“The courses I attend are specific to my area of technical expertise,” said Polley. “This way, I’m keeping my skills up to date for my normal work and those are directly applicable to maintaining my CHSC designation as well.”

The professional practice category seeks to ensure an individual stays active with a minimum of 900 hours of work every year in the OHSE industry.

The minimum requirement for this category is 30 points with a maximum of 50 points over five years.

The last category is leadership and volunteer activities which has a maximum of 50 points but no minimum. This gives CSSE the opportunity to reward the many volunteer initiatives of CHSC members, said Short.

Many CHSC holders volunteer with their local CSSE chapter, present sessions on safety topics at conferences, write articles for various publications or mentor students studying within the profession, he said. 

To maintain his good standing, Polley gives seminars for CSSE on technical items such as dust explosions, electrical safety and lockout requirements. He is also the chair of CSSE’s Toronto chapter.

CHSCs must adhere to a professional code of conduct, maintain on-going CSSE membership and provide annual proof of liability insurance.

There are about 900 designation holders and it is growing every year, said Short.

“I continue to be amazed at the number of organizations that post an individual having a CHSC as one of the requirements for a job,” said Short. “And I have been seeing this more and more.”

Some employers that actively hire CHSCs include Canada Post, Purolator, the City of Toronto, Nova Scotia Public Service Commission and Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

“One of the difficulties is there are no standards for consulting,” said Short. “But individuals with a CHSC are appealing to employers because they have a set of standards they use to guide their work.”

CHSC code of professional conduct

Members who have earned the CHSC designation of the CSSE using sound judgement and working directly with clients to complete assignments in a professional manner shall:
•possess and maintain the required knowledge, skills and training to be proficient and relevant in the provision of service
•conduct themselves in a manner that maintains the highest degree of integrity, honesty, fairness and quality in their businesses
•employ effective and efficient business practices that add to the quality of service
•uphold the honour and dignity of the health and safety profession
•practice positive interpersonal and communication skills
•maintain a professional and objective manner and compete fairly with other consultants
•have empathy for the client and the assignment
•deal honestly with those areas that may be deemed a conflict of interest
•actively promote and support the association, its members and its objectives
•adhere to the CSSE code of ethics.

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