Although traditionally perceived as a “safety” organization, at any given time only about a quarter of American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) members possess the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation. The substantial majority of ASSE members has demonstrated safety, health and environmental (SH&E) capabilities through numerous other designations or chosen not to seek such third party confirmation of their experience, education and competence. Like no other organization in safety and health, ASSE has become an umbrella organization where all SH&E practitioners can find a place to contribute, advance their career, and engage with others in this wide-ranging, dynamic profession.
Helping fuel this growing diversity in membership is that those who employ or engage ASSE’s members expect expertise and experience across increasingly broader aspects of the SH&E practice. This shift in expectations requires practitioners to prepare themselves in various areas of practice. The time when one could expect a safety practitioner to focus on safety and an industrial hygienist on industrial hygiene is quickly fading. ASSE celebrates this diversity and strives to provide each and every member with opportunities to advance their capabilities and move their careers forward.
At times, however, regulators and legislators include SH&E practitioners in a regulation or bill to help ensure the public policy they are pursuing succeeds with SH&E practitioner oversight or involvement. Whenever possible, ASSE government affairs activities strive to encourage this result. Such recognition helps in the overall efforts of ASSE to have employers and the public recognize and value the capabilities of SH&E practitioners, to broaden professional opportunities for our members, and to help make workplaces safer and healthier.
When these opportunities occur, ASSE may find itself in a difficult position trying to fairly represent all its members. When legislators and regulators insert a profession in a bill or regulation, they typically look to an accepted third party to provide some measure of the professional’s qualifications. ASSE is not aware of a legislator or regulator who would be willing to write in an SH&E practitioner simply because of their years of employment, education achievements, or unique experiences without those qualifications being validated by a widely accepted third party. States typically are not willing to provide such certification programs. Without such third party validation of qualifications, every piece of regulation or legislation would be required to include a unique set of practitioner qualifications as well as a process to ensure the appropriateness or validity of those qualifications.
For many professions – including physicians, lawyers, architects and nurses – state licensure boards carry out these functions. Legislators and regulators know there is a widely accepted process for assuring practitioner capabilities under the authority of state law. A process that assures SH&E practitioner capabilities under state authority does not exist at this time. Voluntary SH&E certification systems have produced an estimated 320 different SH&E designations. A few of these designations are the result of investments in time and resources that ensure the competence and experience of those who obtain them as well as continuing competence. Other designations do not, serving merely as opportunistic roadside stands on the Internet for some practitioners to easily achieve an SH&E designation that can be held out to the world without any assurance that it provides quality validation of SH&E capabilities.
Because of this situation, it is impossible for ASSE to hold out to legislators or regulators every SH&E designation as appropriate for inclusion in legislation or regulation. ASSE’s purpose is to convince legislators and regulators that they can have confidence in SH&E practitioners through mechanisms that help ensure their capabilities. At this time, the only means ASSE has to make this argument is to look to widely accepted organizations that provide highly reliable, quality mechanisms for accrediting certifications. Those are the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA), established originally by the federal government to help ensure capabilities of federal allied health practitioners recognized under federal law; the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB); and the International Standards Organizations (ISO) under the American National Standards Institute. These are the only accreditation organizations that meet legal and psychometric standards closely similar to those followed by state licensing mechanisms.
It is not primarily ASSE’s responsibility to promote or advance the use of the designations accredited by these organizations. That is the responsibility of each of the organizations that have copyright interests in such designations. For example, in the field of safety, it is not uncommon that the roles of ASSE and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) are confused. The Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation is an accredited certification offered by BCSP. The BCSP organization derives from the work in 1967 of an ASSE ad hoc committee to establish professional safety certification as a means of achieving professional recognition. BCSP is completely independent of ASSE and has been since its inception. This independence ensures that there can be no conflict of interest between functions of a professional membership organization and the administration of the certification. An ASSE representative sits on the BCSP Board of Directors as do representatives of other safety and health organizations.
In its efforts to advance the profession as a whole, ASSE at times finds itself in the position of having to support inclusion of these individual accredited certifications in regulations and legislation. Instead of recognizing specific designations, ASSE’s preferred response is to see that the regulation or legislation mirror language similar to a 2002 New Jersey law providing recognition and protection to certifications accredited by NCCA or CESB, not to the individual certifications. This excerpt from the New Jersey law defines the accreditations now protected in New Jersey.
Safety professional certification organization" means a professional organization of safety professionals which has been in existence for at least five years and which has been established to improve the practice and educational standards of the safety profession by certifying individuals who meet its education, experience and examination requirements. The organization shall be accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB), or a nationally recognized accrediting body which uses certification criteria equal to or greater than that of the NCCA or CESB.
This approach serves the purpose of advancing the SH&E profession as a whole by emphasizing ASSE’s overall concern that SH&E designations meet the highest level of quality possible. It is ASSE’s purpose to do what it can to encourage SH&E practitioners to achieve accredited certifications and to widen the acceptance of accredited certifications among employers and the public. A possible 320 SH&E designations, with only a handful meeting widely accepted accreditation requirements, creates a confusing and even dangerous practitioner landscape. It is ASSE’s hope that this approach will encourage other organizations offering SH&E designations to meet the legally and psychometrically defensible standards that these organizations provide. With more SH&E certifications accredited by these accepted organizations, ASSE will be able to work towards opportunities to gain recognition of more of its members in regulation and legislation.
Unless circumstances dictate practical compromise, ASSE will not support the advancement of title protection bills that protect only a portion of ASSE’s membership. But, ASSE knows recognition of accredited certifications in general is not always possible, especially when ASSE must respond to legislation already introduced. In these situations, ASSE, out of practicality, will work to gain recognition of SH&E practitioners through single accredited certifications representing the highest levels of our members’ professionalism, namely the CSP, CIH and CHMM. Otherwise, it is not ASSE’s primary goal or purpose to advance individual certifications. Likewise, ASSE hopes that its chapters would not support state professional recognition bills that protect specific certifications unless circumstances dictate practical compromise. Instead, ASSE encourages its chapters to work towards legislation that mirrors New Jersey’s approach of providing protection for accredited certifications, which is the Addendum.
ASSE fully understands that there are uncertified members with experience, education and training to perform as competently as those with these accredited certifications. However, to advance the profession as a whole through the regulatory and legislative process, ASSE has the responsibility to rely on the highest level of demonstrated competence to achieve that goal.
P.L.2002, c.050 (S894 1R) CHAPTER 50
An Act concerning safety professionals and supplementing P.L.1960,
c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.).
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
C.56:8-113 Short title.
1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Safety Professional Truth in Advertising Act."
C.56:8-114 Findings, declarations relative to qualification of safety professionals.
2. The Legislature finds and declares that it is necessary to provide assurance to the public that individuals holding any safety certification have met certain qualifications.
C.56:8-115 Definitions relative to qualifications of safety professionals.
3. As used in this act:
"Safety profession" means the science and art concerned with the preservation of human and material resources through the systematic application of principles drawn from such disciplines as engineering, education, psychology, physiology, enforcement and management for anticipating, identifying and evaluating hazardous conditions and practices; developing hazard control designs, methods, procedures and programs; implementing, administering and advising others on hazard controls and hazard control programs; and measuring, auditing and evaluating the effectiveness of hazard controls and hazard control programs.
"Safety professional certification organization" means a professional organization of safety professionals which has been in existence for at least five years and which has been established to improve the practice and educational standards of the safety profession by certifying individuals who meet its education, experience and examination requirements. The organization shall be accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB), or a nationally recognized accrediting body which uses certification criteria equal to or greater than that of the NCCA or CESB.
C.56:8-116 Certification by safety professional certification organization required.
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