CRSPs raise the bar for safety

Professional certification boosts reputation, opens doors for new career opportunities

When Greg Swan was being interviewed for the position of safety co-ordinator at Bruyère Continuing Care in Ottawa, he was very grateful for one line on his resumé: “In the process of obtaining the Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) designation.” The interviewers noted he had been approved into the program and still had to write the exam to receive the designation — but this was enough for them.

“One of the reasons I was hired was because I had applied to the process of obtaining the CRSP,” said Swan, who now works as the eastern region field consultant for Ontario’s Public Services Health and Safety Association. “That was one of their hiring points and it was a big bonus for me.”

The CRSP is an increasingly popular designation among Canadian health and safety professionals looking to take their careers to the next level, said Howard McGraw, chair of the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP), the body governing the CRSP, based in Mississauga, Ont. 

“It’s for the general health and safety person who wants knowledge across the board of all the different areas of health and safety,” he said. “I would encourage it for anyone who wants to focus on continuous improvement.”

The CRSP is for seasoned health and safety professionals as well as those who are “up and coming,” said Swan.
“It allows them to show they have achieved something and it indicates they are at a higher level than people who don’t have the designation,” he said.

McGraw is also the director of occupational health and safety for Maple Leaf Foods, based in Mississauga, Ont., and he encourages all his safety managers to work toward attaining the CRSP, he said.

“I want my safety managers to have the knowledge that comes out of getting the certificate,” he said. “It demonstrates they have some knowledge of every aspect of health and safety management.”

When McGraw first started in occupational health and safety (OHS) in the late 1970s, the expectations of health and safety professionals were very different, he said. Professionals were expected to be experts in safety and were not called upon for much else. Now, they play an increasingly important role within a company and, at Maple Leaf Foods, all but one of McGraw’s safety managers report to the chief operating officer at their specific location. They also work closely with management.

“They are a part of the team now,” he said. “They are at the table when the management committee is meeting and they talk about maintenance, production and HR. If they only know some subset of safety, they’re not going to be able to have that same input around that table.”

To qualify for the designation, applicants must have successfully completed a one-year OHS college or university certificate or diploma, or a two-year non-OHS college or university program.

They must also have three years of continuous OHS experience immediately prior to submitting the application. Applicants must be employed more than 50 per cent (minimum 900 hours per year) in an OHS practitioner role.

Those who are interested in obtaining the designation first need to apply to the BCRSP which will evaluate the application. If the necessary criteria are met, the applicant will be called in for an interview to make sure the application matches the individual.  

“Sometimes they look great on paper but then we realize safety isn’t actually a big part of their role,” said McGraw. “But more often, people come away with more points after the interview once they’ve clarified their roles and responsibilities.” 

Once they’ve passed the interview, applicants must complete a three-and-one-half hour examination which covers several health and safety knowledge areas, including accident theory, environmental practices, ergonomics, fire prevention and protection,  health promotion, auditing, risk management, occupational hygiene and law and ethics.

“The exam is very tough and challenging,” said Swan. “But even if you fail, there’s so much you will gain from that and say ‘Wow, as a professional I need to grow in this area,’ so even just getting your feet wet in the process will help you grow as a safety professional.”

The application fee is $525 which includes the first writing of the exam — the re-examination fee is $125. The training materials are $75 for the CD-ROM or USB copy or $125 for the hardcopy. To maintain the designation, there is also a $150 annual registration fee.

Currently, 3,500 safety professionals hold an active designation and 4,200 people have received it since its inception in 1988.
After the CRSP is obtained, professionals may attach the acronym to the end of their names and are encouraged to use the designation at every opportunity, according to the BCRSP.

Since it provides such a wide range of health and safety skills, individuals are prepared for many health and safety careers. Some companies who actively hire CRSPs include Sobeys, The Vancouver School Board, Shell Canada, Dow Chemical, General Motors and Ontario’s Hydro One.

A certification maintenance program is also in place to make sure professionals stay up to date on changes in the industry. The program is points-based and requires CRSPs to accumulate five points per year through a variety of approved activities of varying points value.

“The main purpose it to get people out of their offices and get them to meet other people, get new ideas and see new things,” said McGraw. “We want them to keep progressing and expanding their knowledge on an ongoing basis.”

The maintenance activities fall into three categories. The first is professional development, which includes taking educational courses or developing a course. The second is examinations and certifications, which includes obtaining other designations, including those in the United States, or completing a post-graduate degree over and above what was presented in the application. And the third category is personal pursuits, which includes membership to technical professionals societies and publishing OHS-related papers.

The CRSPs must also adhere to the code of ethics which outlines specific behaviours, including avoiding conflicts of interest, protecting confidentiality and promoting the health and safety of people, property and the environment above any consideration of self-interest.

Having the CRSP, following the code of ethics and meeting the maintenance requirements helps the professional maintain sustainability, said Swan.

“The CRSP is what organizations around Canada are now looking at as the standard of ethics in the profession,” he said. 

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