As a safety professional, like any professional, I need to keep my skills and knowledge up to date and aligned to current regulations, understanding, and better practices to ensure I give correct, accurate, relevant, and timely advice to my employer regarding safety matters.
This is no different to a doctor learning about new medicines or surgical practices, or a joiner learning about a new bit of kit that is safer or quicker in cutting wood so they can complete their jobs for the day that little bit quicker. It should be an intrinsic and identifiable thing we do routinely or on a periodic basis.
For me, this is often the more exciting end of the job when presented by a new problem, reading research papers, accident and ill-health statistics, industry guidance, regulations, ACOP, and talking to colleagues. Much of this useful information is not necessarily within the pure “safety” profession but in associate professionals such as occupational health, medical, engineering, design, architectural, and operational fields that you have to dig out.
That said, I’ve been around a while and whilst loathed to admit it in front of younger safety professionals, there will be the odd subject area that I’ll have forgotten about and therefore I may occasionally (and I say occasionally) have to refresh myself on some of the more fundamental elements of our profession. A recent example would be the exact wording of workplace temperatures within the Workplace Health Safety and Welfare Regulations.
As you can see, professional development is not all about attending courses or learning new facts and figures. Some of the more valuable professional development I’ve undertaken has been around managerial, influencing, and stakeholder management skills and these came from reading a book or listening to an audio CD. For example, I’m currently reading Design of Everyday Things by Donald A Norman – a good read if you can’t operate your TV, desk phone, or have ever found yourself trapped between two sets of doors.
If the mark of a professional is keeping up to date with developments, or refreshing yourself on things you might have forgotten, should it also not be the job of our professional body to encourage us to undertake professional development? I consider that it is very much for IOSH to require us and, where appropriate, monitor this or track those who don’t undertake it to ensure we remain competent.
It is, however, just a record of what we should be doing. Like most, this can seem like a bit of a chore. To help with this whole development process, I undertake a review once a year just before the turn of the financial year, and whilst developing strategies and threats to my employer’s business I devise a development plan for myself to ensure I develop or refresh the knowledge and skills required to support the strategy. I have also begun using Blueprint to assist in identifying development gaps.
I sometimes struggled to routinely go in and update my online CPD, and when I did get reminders to do this I often forgot what development tasks I’d undertaken. What I did to help me address this was to have a Word document on my desktop called “IOSH CPD”. Every time I read something, heard something or did something that contributed to my development I would just make a few notes. Then once every six months I’d pop into the CPD website and update my record – simple, structured, and planned.
I’ve heard others mention that CPD is difficult, pointless, or they can’t get funding to attend a course. My answer is usually if you’ve worked hard to become chartered, it’s easier to keep up to date with CPD than to lose it and have to start again. As for the fact that it’s all about attending a course, our profession has many examples that a course alone doesn’t make someone competent or professional, so why would we be repeating this to our professional body?
Going forward, can I suggest you try to have in mind a quote by Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States: “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”