Look in the mirror, what are you reflecting?

This post originally appeared in the IOSH Magazine Health and Safety Jobs blog in December 2016.

The New Year is often a time when we look back on the previous year and think about resolutions and ambitions for the months ahead. In the world of work we may also plan our diaries, budgets and project tasks. But how many of us also think about our own professional development plans for the year ahead?

As practitioners, we spend our working lives helping colleagues and clients to develop and implement best practice in safety and health management, and part of that system is recording training and other critical information. When we audit our workplaces we almost certainly ask for evidence of compliance, which may include records of testing, maintenance and near-miss and incident reports. We may also ask for evidence of competence from suppliers or employees before they start new projects or activities. But how often do we record the same for ourselves? For many of us it may have been a few years since we became ‘qualified’ to do our role, and in that time we may also have moved onwards and upwards as a result of increasing experience and capability.

In the IOSH research programme, called ‘Health and Safety in a Changing World’ – featured in the December issue of IOSH Magazine – researchers concluded that ‘knowledge was more than merely data or information’, and it is widely accepted that the majority of our learning happens on the job, so recording what we have learnt and reflecting on these experiences is an important process in our professional development.

There are many routes to gaining qualifications eligible for attaining GradIOSH status, which once achieved should put members on the path to attaining Chartered status. A key part of this process is maintaining a record of Continuing Professional development (CPD), which is examined as part of the application process for Chartered membership. But this practice should not stop once a member has been successful at their Chartered membership interview. The Byelaws, set as part of the Royal Charter that IOSH is governed by, describe both categories of corporate membership (CMIOSH and CFIOSH) as those ‘who continue to demonstrate that they are maintaining their competence through a mandatory programme of CPD’.

Risks of Not Keeping up to Date

IOSH has over 46,000 members at differing levels of membership and career status. If a Chartered member or Fellow does not adhere to this system, they are risking their professional status; if they lose the Chartered status and both IOSH and the member’s employer could be at risk from reputational damage as well as potential impacts on their professional indemnity insurance. Also, if a practitioner does not record their professional development and their competence is questioned as part of any enforcement action, what evidence would they have when asked how they maintain their knowledge and skills in an ever-changing world of regulation, risk management information and developments in Case Law?

The CPD Process

The careers advice website ‘jobs.ac.uk’ describes CPD as follows: ‘It refers to the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that you gain both formally and informally as you work, beyond any initial training. It’s a record of what you experience, learn and then apply. The CPD process helps you manage your own development on an ongoing basis. Its function is to help you record, review and reflect on what you learn. It’s not a tick-box document recording the training you have completed. It’s broader than that.’

CPD is a simple concept. For example, you may be reading this article on a computer or other electronic device. Ask yourself: how up-to-date is it? Most IT systems are updated at regular intervals to ensure they have the latest software to protect them from malware and viruses. Can we all say that we can demonstrate we are up-to-date too? CPD therefore is all about keeping records of and reflecting on our own training, knowledge and experiences, such as reading research (and articles like this one), attending professional meetings and conferences, and undertaking management tasks that challenge our ‘softer’ skills and demonstrate learning points for us. For each of us, this is a unique record of our own personal experience and it could be used therefore to help us grow and move forward in our career. If combined with a personal development plan, such as the new ‘Blueprint’ self-assessment tool recently launched by IOSH, this can be a powerful way of identifying areas where we may wish to increase learning or develop new skills.

CPD Support and Advice

The membership team at IOSH are working hard to support members with monthly webinars, email reminders and training sessions for members, as well as providing individual guidance and a handy time planner tool to help members set aside a regular slot each quarter to update their CPD. Just 40 minutes per session can be enough to keep up-to-date. IOSH Magazine also features a monthly ‘CPD star’, who shares their own experiences and best practice in recording their professional development. Many of our members also have to keep a CPD record for other professional bodies they are members of and IOSH has agreements in place with some organisations to share knowledge and prevent duplicate recording.

The Professional Standards Committee has set up a working party, of which I am chair alongside Lawrence Webb, to look at all aspects of CPD recording, standards and audit. They are looking for members from all categories to join. To get a fresh outlook, they are inviting members from all grades of membership, at varying career stages (including international members and those who are of retired status), who have not had prior experience of any existing standing committees to contribute – a perfect opportunity to record some CPD activities perhaps? All IOSH members, volunteers and other relevant stakeholders will be consulted during the project to get their input and share their experiences and best practice.

Do you want to help? If so, please apply by getting in touch with the membership team. The time commitment will be two or three meetings a year and some work by correspondence. We want to look at how IOSH can best support and encourage members to complete their CPD records to an acceptable standard to ensure that employers engaging an IOSH member can be assured that they are working with a professional who can demonstrate their continuous improvement and development of skills in this ever changing world of work. So please get involved.

Contact membership@iosh.co.uk or call 0116 257 3198