Whilst all are important in different ways, certification, competency, and compliance mean very different things.
What Is Certification?
Certification is all about credentials. Professionals who are certified in their area of specialty complete a course of study, pass a written examination, and must continue taking professional development courses throughout their careers.
There are thousands of credentialed safety professionals in Australia, and these credentials really do matter. In essence, having a credential represents a commitment on the part of the professional. It shows that they have set a goal for themselves and followed through to achieve it. The third-party stamp of approval validates the knowledge and professionalism they gained in the process.
What Is Competency?
Competency, on the other hand, has nothing to do with professional or formal education. Instead, it refers to the skill and knowledge needed to successfully complete a task. Those who have competencies are qualified to perform their work safely and often with little or no supervision.
It takes time to develop competence, and it can be attained in a variety of ways:
- Initial training
- On-the-job learning
- Formal qualification
Competent individuals require little in the way of direct supervision and have the experience and ability to carry out their project duties, recognize their limitations, and take appropriate action to prevent harm to those carrying out the work and those affected by it.
What is Compliance?
Typically, compliance refers to acting according to an order, warrant, specification, rule, standard, term, condition or request. For example, regulatory compliance is the process by which organizations ensure they are operating in accordance with relevant regulations.
The Construction Industry is required to regularly monitor compliance standards. Managers within the industry should be familiar with the compliance levels laid out by Australian Occupation, Health and Safety authorities.
Compliance is also necessary to protect the rights of construction workers that operate in specialized industries. Scheduling and regular inspections also form conditions of compliance.
A company can have a periodic review to make sure they are adhering to compliance. If the company does not meet the standards, they can be fined.
Which Matters More?
There’s no simple answer. But figuring things out starts with understanding what each one really means.
Bring up the topic of certification and competency to a group of safety professionals and you’re sure to get a list of questions and comments. Does certification equal competence? What’s the difference? Which one matters more?
With today’s construction demands, projects are becoming more complex, and involving more, processes, and collaboration than ever before. For those managing the day-to-day work, it means there are more things to stay on top of it can be a daunting task for even the best-staffed companies.
Construction is one of the most heavily-regulated industries. These are a lot of hoops to jump through to ensure a successful outcome every time. Any one of these issues falling through can present significant risk to the contractor via penalties, lawsuits, or other conflicts.
While certification is an important method for gaining the key knowledge and skills necessary for a job, competency is required to complete the job properly and safely every time. We all know that practice makes perfect, and certification alone won't give you a whole lot of practice.
It’s not uncommon for workers to do training courses over the course of a few days and then write an exam to prove their knowledge. The certificate they receive deems them compliant in that area. But what happens when they don’t use this knowledge for an extended period of time? It’s almost certain that they won’t be able to gain competence – and that could lead to serious accidents.
Research studies have proven how much we forget. While it is influenced by factors including the type of material and your unique memory, it is proven that we lose 50 to 80 percent of what we learned the day before if we don't do anything with the information.
Certification, competency and compliance all complement each other. It’s important for employees to receive some in-depth training and certification, but putting the training into practice is what really makes that knowledge stick and improve workplace safety records.
Employers can begin by assigning work based on what employees can actually do, rather than what their certificates say they can do. In addition to creating a safer workplace, the competency approach can provide much-needed support to employees, boosting morale and the company’s bottom line.