Safety Professional – Is the term used too loosely?

Are we calling the wrong people “Professionals”?

I recently had occasion to argue this point in a professional networking site thread, and found that many (including myself) can get very emotional concerning this subject. I know many in the safety profession, and they are all very passionate about their calling, not all are formally educated in safety, and not many have certifications trailing after their names. All of these people are experienced and dedicated to ensuring the safety of their workforce and protecting their companies from loss. This leads me to the question “But, are they truly safety professionals?”

Miriam-Webster defines a professional as: [quote]… of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession; engaged in one of the learned professions; characterized by, or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession; participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs; having a particular profession as a permanent career. [/quote]
While the Business Dictionary describes a professional as: [quote]… a person formally certified by a professional body of belonging to a specific profession by virtue of having completed a required course of studies and/or practice, and whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards. [/quote]

It goes on to add alternatively—“A person who has achieved an acclaimed level of proficiency in a calling or trade.” And on ad infinitum.

I regularly see people with many certifications that seem to ramble on for days following their names on this networking site. I am forced to ask the question of myself and others—what purpose does it serve?

I believe that all of those definitions can describe the people that are today engaged in safety. I have seen firsthand the dedication and knowledge it takes to be called a professional portrayed by all, with and without formal education or certification. It seems subjective and some would say dangerous to entrust the safety of oneself to a person without education and certification, but we have been doing it, and doing it well for decades.

Things are changing, no longer is it a simple task to gain employment, or continue to be employed in safety without getting the education and pursuing credentials. How many credentials, and which too pursue, seem to be peculiar to the specialty one is engaging in. I am firmly of the belief that education matters, credentials matter as well, but there is still room to call those who have been in the trenches, lowering those accident and incident rates all these years “Professionals” with a capital “P”. We learned from them, we continue to learn from them, they have been the guideposts that have been ensuring safety for untold numbers of years.

UL gives safety professionals more of the tools they need to proactively address risks, reduce costs and keep people safe, healthy and on the job.