Aligning Safety to School – do you match up?

Many employers opt for the lower qualified employee to take their business further, even when it comes to EHS compliance. But most employers will agree that anything less than a Grade 12 qualification will not suffice when it comes to supervisory level appointments.

Yet when it comes to the protection of the business and the people employed by the business a grade 10 level qualification is more than enough. A short course in Safety qualification at NQF Level 2 offers nothing more than a Grade 10 at school, formerly also known as Standard 8.

Back in the 1940’s it may have been more than enough to get a job at the Railways, or Eskom, even Sanlam for that matter. But we are no longer in the 1940’s and the next 40’s is a mere 20 years off.  With the rapid pace of technological advancement the “grade 8’s of Safety” will find it difficult to compete in a workplace where critical thinking, analytical skills and professional report writing are key performance indicators.

SAQA minimum underlying qualifications and experience for OHS Designations:

  • Technical – NQF 5 Certificate (10 credits) plus 2 years experience
  • Graduate – NQF 6 National Diploma (360 credits) plus 3 years post graduate experience
  • Chartered – OHS qualification at NQF 7 Degree plus minimum 5 years post graduate experience

Credits are linked to hours of learning. As example, 360 credits equates to 3 years of full time study with out-of-class research and studying required over this period.

One level down, and we have a 10 credit course which creates a vast gap in the educational path of the OHS professional. Jumping from Technical to Graduate level is impossible as the entry requirements for NQF 6 Diploma level courses are too high for a Technical practitioner to achieve. The only gateway is the National Certificate – grade 12.

Well, this is the theory. The practice remains questionable.

The irony is that the 1940’s was also the post-war birth of OHS and after almost 100 years, the profession seem to have gotten stuck there somewhere between Bird, Heinrich and the Battle of Midway. The advancement of OHS since the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, at least in South Africa, has only seen two amendments from the old Factories, Machinery and Building Works Act, 1941 with the MOSAct in 1983 (42 years later) and the OHSAct in 1994 (11 years later). We are now in 25th year awaiting a new OHS Act.

It is thus noticable that the sense of urgency among educators and law-makers to protect life and limb is not high priority. But the money-makers will disagree.

  • There is one OHS consultancy for every 100 employees in SA.
  • There are more OHS qualifications than students in OHS.
  • There is not a single standard of practice.

And there you thought these guys understand risk?

Jessica van Zyl
Jessica is the Editor in Chief of Sheqafrica Corporate Services (Pty)Ltd's Media Office and has 17 years experience in Technical Publishing. She worked for a number of small online magazines until 2018 when she became a Legal Researcher at Le Roux Maritz & Partners. Shortly afterwards, she was seconded to SACS as editor of as part of her portfolio. Jessica is currently working at the Sydney Office of