Safety degree change, and SAQA’s career advice

The Unisa National Diploma in Safety Management (Nadsam, NQF 6, 360 credits), changes in 2017 to a Diploma in Safety Management. HRD1501 replaces SPPPRAC, and HRM1501 replaces PEF131V in the curriculum.

The University of South Africa (Unisa) offers a Diploma in Safety Management (Nadsam), but noted a BTech Safety degree change to BComm already in 2013.

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) has a National Careers Advice Portal (NCAP) on its website to help students and trainees to choose careers, with details of tertiary and professional training required, and information on courses at registered institutions.

SAQA works with the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) to offer information on courses accredited with Setas. SAQA aldso evaluates foreign qualifications for recognition of prior learning (RPL).

[UPDATE 2017: The Council for the Built Environment (CBE) criticised universities for low capacity. Priscilla Mdlalose, acting CEO of the CBE, noted seven “challenges experienced” by construction professions, including:

  • Some universities have a maximum intake of only 35 students, resulting in low through-put rate. The faculty promised to improve future intakes. [This comment is relevant also to the Unisa National Safety Management, or Nadsam Degree and Diploma];
  • CBE had to “heavily subsidise application and registration fees for Construction Health and Safety Managers, and Construction Health and Safety Officers, due to their relatively low earning incomes, according to a salary survey”;
  • Few mentors and institutions are available to construction health and safety candidates.

Ms Nomvula Rakolote, Registrar of the SACPCMP, said some black students were not graduating due to lack of experiential learning.

“There is often a gap between graduation and experience. SACPCMP started a programme with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Gauteng provincial government, to place students in jobs. Some students also lack business skills.”

The CBE has partnerships with several departments to strengthen its technical capacity, and with Tshwane University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Durban University of Technology, and Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.

Ms Kohler-Barnard (DA) asked for a separate meeting with the Portfolio Committees on Basic Education; Higher Education and Training; and Labour, to look at the issue of [health and safety skills] not feeding into public entities.]

[Back to the 2013 report:]

Health and safety training courses comments

From Wade Frazenburg; I have read about Unisa courses being changed and it has caused some concern. I am passionate about being a safety officer and hopefully a manager one day. Could you briefly provide a layout of the steps I should take, courses you recommend, and ways of breaking into the field?

Former editor replies; Since Sheq is multi-disciplinary, and employers are often not specific on qualifications required, the answer to your career path query depends on your industrial sector, country or countries of operation, and intended job functions.

You have to compare courses or programme prices, time, venues, unit standard points, and recognition of prior learning (RPL) values. The formal mentoring capacity of your colleagues and employer will play an increasingly larger role in your formal qualifications, and in your employability.

Draft a career path and ask the SACPCMP (i you are in construction health and safety practice, or project management), or the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), and several training providers, and major employers, for advice.

Sheq at tertiary level has been at crossroads and in uncertainty for decades. Ideally you should choose your speciality, then train in either a health, or psychology, or environmental, or quality, or law, or management programme. Only low level practitioners should be Sheq generalists.

See a report on Sheq training updates here:


How many courses do I need?

From Paul; My client’s son wants to enter health and safety practice, and was advised by a training provider to take seven courses in six months, at R60 000.

They advised these courses; SHE Rep Functions, Intro to safety, Safety management short course, Incident Investigation Level 3, System auditor, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001. Are these the right courses, and if he passes, would he qualify to work for a health en safety consulting company?

‘Ra’ replied via Sheqafrica.com; If a training provider led your friend to believe that he would ‘qualify’ as a safety officer, they are misrepresenting their products, and the profession. The proposed series of courses is not the way to go. There are several options.

Former editor responds; No trainee entering health and safety could become a consultant or auditor in six months. Appointment as safety officer would depend on the candidate’s other qualifications, experience in the relevant industrial or business sector, and the employer’s policies and mentoring capacity.

There are many good, accredited basic courses, but first decide on a job sector. If the trainee has an aptitude for mining or sustainability, investigate Wits University programmes, or if law, investigate the University of the Free State, or for law or environmental management, compare the North West University programmes.

If the trainee chooses construction, ask the SACPCMP for their designations and accredited training providers, and Nelson Mandela Metro University entry requirements and programmes.

If the trainee chooses mining, consider the Mining Qualifications Authority entry level courses, and Wits University programmes. If blasting is the career choice, Unisa offers the accepted course in explosives.

If the trainee has a medical aptitude, ask the occupational hygiene body SAIOH, and the occupational medical nursing body SASOM for their designations and recommended training providers.

If auditing is the eventual aim, join one of the quality management bodies and ask their advice. If the trainee does not have a particular industry or role in mind yet, compare the NQF levels and credits of courses on offer.

A portfolio of short courses specific to job functions are valuable additions to any degree or production qualification or experiences, such as hazard identification, risk assessment, health and safety law, system implementation, system standard management, environmental management, quality management, incident investigation, and the rest of the spectrum of Sheq management.

Unfortunately the only diploma level general health and safety qualification is from Unisa, which may become a B Comm with some OHS modules.

In environmental management, North West University in Potchefstroom offers a programme of short courses leading to a degree, or in addition to a degree. Several other universities also offer environmental management courses.

Take every step to ensure that the training provider is registered with the relevant department or Seta. Do not take any courses at unregistered providers.

Conferences, workshops or membership body meetings add very little in terms of training or recognition.

Once you know a particular industry’s processes, technologies and risks intimately, and have a tertiary qualification, and have gained experience in risk management in that industry, then consider an audit qualification, internal consulting, and new research into risk management.

If your research creates demand for your advice, only then consider a career in consulting or training. The above is not the last word in career advice, but an outline of some of the spadework that could lead you to a career path plan.

Here is another report on in-house training management:

Health and safety training best practice

New RC short courses

Three new Responsible Care Awareness courses have been developed for the petrochemicals sector and environmental impacts management practice; Introduction to Responsible Care; Implementing Responsible Care; Verification and Auditing of Responsible Care.

Student bursaries increased

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme managed to allocate all R7.7b of its budget, by way of loans and bursaries during the last year, and aims to increase the loans in 2013, by about another R4b.

The Central Applications Process (linking tertiary institutions and funding applications) should be operative by September. It is considering what it might be able to do to help the “missing middle” of students, whose parents earn above the threshold for funding, but still cannot afford to pay full university fees. It also hopes to extend funding to BTech and other currently unfunded courses.

Here is an earlier report on training funding via tax:

Department of Labour’s UIF funds Seta training

SA Labour repeat training lay-off funding offer

State pays for training union officials

The SA Labour Department congratulated the 2013 class of Workers College Natal who gained diplomas from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in labour studies and labour economics.

This college is partly funded by the Department of Labour, and provides capacity building for union officials of the three federations’ affiliates, including Cosatu, to obtain a national academic qualification.

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant would ask the fiscus in 2013 “to explore whether this concept could be replicated to other provinces. We also continue lending weight to other efforts to build capacity through support of Ditsela, which is training union officials, the funding which has been in place since 1996.

“For the next three years, R30.4-million has been allocated for this purpose.” (See posts on Labour Dearptment budget and loss of training functions on Sheqafrica.com)

Maritime safety training

DOL has partnered with the South African Maritime Safety Association to enable them to tap into the labour employment system for cadets. “We have also agreed to work with the Department for Higher Education and Training to have these cadets placed at FET colleges,” said Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.

“We have also partnered with SETAs to provide training for youth and unemployed people.” However, the Department of Labour had most of its former education functions removed to other departments last year.

==== Previous update on Unisa safety courses, 2012

Last year [2011], Unisa said the diploma course content had not been updated for some years, and would be replaced by a BComm, accounting or business management diploma, containing some safety management modules. However, the decision was reviewed.

The BTech Safety Management degree would be terminated by 2018. Lack of tertiary research and training services had been debated in Sheq practice and industry for some years, characterised by lack of information and consultation from Unisa.

Practitioners and employers are concerned about the loss of these two tertiary safety qualifications, since they are among the most recognised qualifications, along with overseas safety degrees.

SA HSE qualifications survey results

A survey of health, safety and environment (HSE) qualifications by Saiosh, found that a basic two week course, the BTech safety management degree, and the Nadsam diploma, were the only generally recognised SHE qualifications in South Africa, alongside overseas qualifications.

Saiosh education officer Shane Lishman ran surveys in 2011 to enquire into recognised and preferred HSE qualifications in South Africa, asking practitioners which qualifications were regarded as important to have.

The survey addressed four major issues; short courses of two weeks, longer courses of three years or more, international courses, and acceptance of qualifications in South Africa.

Earlier surveys by other health and safety membership bodies and organisations like Safemap, Saacosh, and Sashef, had found that most practitioners had only short course qualifications.

Most short courses, typically of two weeks duration, focus on basic legislation, compliance, HSE management principles, HSE management systems, and a practical case study.

Several courses carry equal SAQA registration, equal NQF points, and equal articulation to further studies. Note that the term ‘certificate’ does not imply academic Certificate level.

The term ‘diploma’ is also applied to some courses that could be completed in 30 days or a year, and is not recognised as a diploma by employers or by universities.

Only very basic safety, hygiene and environment qualification levels are standardised. SAQA registration does not imply standardisation, nor international alignment.

Lishman also found that “South African practitioners believe that the best HSE courses are based in;
• UK 80%
• South Africa 62%
• Australia 57%.”

Here is another report on motivations for employers’ training budget;


Need for Safety Management diploma

Renewed discussion about tertiary safety qualifications was sparked at a Sashef conference in November last year, as reported on Sheqafrica.com. Comments by some students on Sashef Facebook page are posted below, followed by informal responses and web information from Unisa.

From safety practitioner and Unisa student Olivia de Klerk; “My experience and opinion is that the Unisa diploma course material is not all that relevant to occupational safety practice, but it is the most recognised SA based tertiary qualification, which is sad.

“Where else could I complete a National Diploma in Safety Management. I have only three subjects left at Unisa, but I would like to explore other options. Our Unisa assignment answers are posted before we have to submit it. Our lecturer said the exam was partial open book, but exam guidelines dictate that it is closed, and we got SMS messages changing this very important detail, just days before writing exams.

“I do not really feel like I have achieved much through Unisa. I can only study part time. I contacted Vaal Tech, but have not had a reply yet. Apparently TUT offers it as well, but it is also a mission to get info from them.”

From Unisa studen Hannes Ras; “One of my Unisa subject manuals was last reviewed in 1999.”

From Unisa student Valencia Ravell; “I have three subjects left for a Unisa diploma, and I am in the same boat. Vaal tech offers NDSMN, but I am still trying to find out if I could do it part time.”

From safety practitioner, Josep Manioe Makhuvele; “I have always doubted the value of the National Diploma in Safety Management, NADSAM. How much could one get from an undergraduate programme through correspondence? I coach some guys who are studying for their NADSAM, and they have the same challenge. Vaal Tech offers only evening classes.”

Calls to retain Nadsam and BTech SM

Unisa told some students it was changing the National Diploma in Safety Management. For one year, they will not take registrations, and will then resume registrations.

This does not mean that the course will remain, unless other issues are resolved with other possible courses. BComm Safety Management will not be offered yet.

Students who want to follow their National Diploma in Safety Management with a BTech Safety Management in 2012, may ask the dean at Ngambhc@unisa.ac.za why the course is changed.

This course was included in the 2011 calendar as available until 2017, but Unisa website states “no new registrations will be allowed from 2012 onwards”, and yet also says “Repeaters only until 2018″, on the course web page.

The National Diploma in Safety Management is a prerequisite for the BTech Safety Management course.

Venda University of Technology (VUT) offers a National Diploma in Safety Management, but not a BTech.”

Unisa response

Unisa had referred media queries to an appropriate official in November last year. Unisa safety lecturer Francois van Loggerenberg declined to comment. Thirteen lecturers are said to be involved in presenting various safety modules as part of various qualifications.

Unisa lecturers presenting Operations Safety Management include Prof Louis Kruger, Dr Ria Vosloo, Mr Isaac Mokoele, Frans van Loggerenberg, Preshodan Naidoo, and Ms Zakkiyya Moosa.

Unisa BTech Safety Management (BTSMN) registrations stopped in 2011, and may resume in 2013. Current students and repeaters have until 2014 to complete the degree.

Unisa National Diploma in Safety Management prerequisite is NSC with four 20 credit subjects at rating 3, or Senior Certificate. NDSMN offers NQF Level 6, with 360 credits.