Fabian Demicoli

GRTU’s views on Accreditation system

 GRTU has this week submitted its views on the system of accreditation. It is the view of GRTU that an accreditation system be set up to raise standards in Occupational Health and Safety in Malta. GRTU believes strongly that injury at work has serious repercussions for business not only in direct costs but also in indirect costs. It is with this view that accidents at work should be avoided as much as possible and therefore it is supporting the setting up of an accreditation system in Malta.

 

The certification should cover all levels and depths of competence relevant to occupational health and safety and any proposals should therefore be well discussed with the relevant bodies such as industry associations. It is important that before defining competence in any specific area such as that of the physician or hygienist, persons operating in these areas are asked to express their views on the matter thus ensuring civil dialogue as much as possible. Also these people will have first hand views about what constitutes or what does not constitute competence in their respective fields.

The accreditation system should not be unique to Malta but should be as close to what is used in other countries. This in view that Malta should try to make it simpler for Maltese workers to seek work in other European countries (worker mobility of competent persons). The system as proposed by GRTU should feature parts of other countries' systems. This said, it is crucial to keep in mind the type of employer that operates in Malta having many generalist rather than specialist businesses. Example in the woodworking industry most employers work with a variety of woods and there are no known employers that use only one particular type of wood. Hence the competent person giving advice in such case should have a broad knowledge of the risks of various kinds of wood rather than deep knowledge of risks associated with one kind.

The system of accreditation should be seen as a process, that is, a system that develops over time. It is the view of GRTU that the system should start on a voluntary basis and should not tightly assess and certify. However it should develop over time with the view that assessment and certification would become more thorough as it progresses.

GRTU feels that the system should not be the only system in Malta (no monopoly in the system). Competent persons accredited in Europe should be allowed to work in Malta even though they are not accredited by the Maltese system. Also there should be room to allow for the setting up of other (not one) accreditation bodies all falling under the supervision and regulation of OHSA authority.

This means that if in the future, the industry association shows an interest in becoming an accreditation body for the members of that industry, there should be nothing to stop this from happening. This will strengthen the purpose of industry associations.

The cost of the accreditation system should be borne by the applicant and the employer. It should not be an added cost on the state. Costs should be closely monitored by the regulator to ensure that the system works efficiently and effectively. It is the view of GRTU that no unnecessarily costs should be imposed on the employer. In this context competent persons can also be considered as possibly self employed persons and hence the GRTU feels that competent people should not be unnecessarily burdened with costs of a system that runs inefficiently. The first accreditation board should include all stakeholders including at least one person from OHSA, one person from the employers, one person representing the competent persons and one person representing the employees. It is also recommended that one foreign expert with experience in the setting up of accreditation systems be brought on board.

While accreditation systems ensure that standards are raised, it is important that no bottle necks are created in the system. This is why it is recommended that there is a system for more than one body offering accreditation to competent persons.  It should also be the intention of the system to raise the standards of competent people over time by providing support.

There is another key question relating to the skills and levels required of competent persons. The competent person must have a basic education and some health and safety training. The health and safety training could have been one of the modules studied in a tertiary programme of studies. There should be a system for CPD and a code of ethics.  However the CPD and the code of ethics should if possible fall within the remit of an association of competent persons not within the remit of the accreditation. If such an association does not exist OHSA should try to help in its setting up. At this stage membership of a foreign professional association should not be considered because of the costs involved in the membership. It must be remembered that the costs of the competent person will undoubtedly be transferred to the employer recruiting the services and it is the view of GRTU that costs are kept to a bare minimum.

Each accreditation body should set up its own procedure for certification. It should also be responsible for organising its own set of procedures. In the UK for instance, each accreditation body adopts its own system and if the system is transparent and well documented there should be no difficulty for the system to work smoothly.

The Authority should set up minimum standards for accreditation bodies to follow including quality management, records and inspection reports. Each body should offer an appeals procedure.

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