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Occupational Health and Safety in New Zealand: NOHSAC: Technical Report 7

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3.7   The education and information framework

Section 3.7 focuses on four areas of New Zealand’s health and safety education framework:

3.7.1   A brief outline of New Zealand’s qualification framework

Qualifications in New Zealand are based on the achievement of certain standards. Masters’ degrees, degrees and diplomas are based on assessments undertaken to standards agreed upon by universities and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). National certificates are based on the achievement of unit standards. Recognised qualifications are entered onto the NZQA’ New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. Finally, some health and safety representative training is available and is NZQA unit standard-approved.

Additional tertiary-level training that does not sit within the NZQA Framework is available from private providers but given the wide scope for this training, discussion of this is not included in the present report.

3.7.2   Qualifications in health and safety: degrees and diplomas

The degrees and diplomas available are:

A number of individual papers are available, including papers that focus on rehabilitation, occupational therapy, chemical safety and musculoskeletal injury. These papers may be included in a number of the qualifications listed above or may be undertaken as part of another course (such as post-graduate or under-graduate medical or science degrees). These are not listed in this section due to the more peripheral relationship that these can have with workplace health and safety.

Three of New Zealand’s eight universities offer a combination of the qualifications listed above: the University of Auckland, Massey University and the University of Otago.

3.7.3   Qualifications in health and safety: National Certificates and unit standards

There are currently four national certificate qualifications regarding workplace health and safety:

National certificates are supported by approximately 130 unit standards developed by industry training organisations (ITOs) and/or the NZQA. These cover levels one to seven and provide training in industry-specific health and safety practices across a broad range of industries.   Service delivery

ITOs represent different industry sectors and are charged with developing and maintaining national unit standards and qualifications relating to the work undertaken in the sector represented by the ITO. The ITOs also facilitate both on- and off-the-job training in the ITO-developed material and in other courses as appropriate.

A number of other providers deliver national certificate qualifications and offer unit standards in health and safety. This includes polytechnics, institutes of technology and private training establishments.

There are few purpose-built education facilities offering health and safety education in New Zealand; however, one such centre is available in Taranaki.

3.7.4   Practical training opportunities: the ODC

The ODC is the Department of Labour’s in-house training centre for the health and safety inspectorate. It offers short courses in case law, investigations, prosecutions, relationship management, and refresher courses related to both the HSE and HSNO Acts. It is also the preferred provider for training in the enforcement of the HSE Act for staff working for other agencies (eg, Maritime New Zealand, the CAA, the CVIU and some territorial authorities). The ODC has plans to develop current offered courses into unit standards and a formal qualification in public sector compliance management.

The ODC is funded by the Department of Labour although other external agencies pay for their employees to attend courses run by the centre.

3.7.5   Health and safety representatives training

Section 19E of the HSE Act provides for the training of health and safety representatives elected under the Act. The Act requires that employers allow health and safety representatives two days’ paid leave per annum to attend approved health and safety training courses. Section 19G enables the Minister of Labour to approve such courses.   Approved courses and the number of trained health and safety representatives

Currently, there are 12 approved health and safety training courses offered by a number of providers.[l] These courses cover a similar range of topics, including the HSE Act, hazard management, incident investigation and communications. Information received from training providers indicates that approximately 20,000 people have received health and safety representative training (for employees). Employees/self-employed people also participate in Business New Zealand’s training course on the HSE Act. Site Safe operates a specific training course tailored to the construction industry, which has trained 330 people since 2003.

The majority of health and safety representatives are trained in a small number of courses (eg, the courses offered by the CTU, Business New Zealand and Site Safe). Most of the approved private providers only train a small number of representatives. The reasons for this are varied and include workforce issues (such as needing to appoint training staff) and the commercial realities for small private providers who do not receive funding from the Employment Relations Education Contestable Fund (the ERE Fund).   Funding: the ERE Fund

The ERE Fund allocates approximately $2 million per annum to assist in the delivery of health and safety representative training programmes and training in the Employment Relations Act. Unions, employers, employer organisations and Education Act-recognised providers can apply for this funding, which is allocated by the Employment Relations Advisory Committee using standardised criteria and approved by the Minister of Labour. In 2004/05, the majority of the ERE Fund was allocated to unions and union organisers (65 percent). A further 26 percent was allocated to Business New Zealand. The remainder was allocated to private providers.[li] It is not clear how much of this funding was allocated to fund health and safety representative training and how much was allocated for Employment Relations Act training.

Further funding of $1.6 million (2006/07) is provided by ACC for health and safety representative training for at least 9,000 employees and 2,000 employers and self-employed people.   Evaluations of approved courses

Evaluations were not available for any of the approved health and safety representative training programmes.

3.7.6   Comments made by stakeholders about the education framework   Diplomas, degrees and national certificates

Stakeholders raised a number of concerns about the availability and quality of education and training:   Health and safety representative training

Course providers noted that participants from a range of industries participate in the available health and safety representative training, although the CTU suggested that the uptake of health and safety representative training is not consistent across industries and that uptake is particularly slow in the transport, construction and on-hire sectors. Two private providers expressed considerable dissatisfaction in the allocation of the ERE Fund.   Training of approved handlers

The training of approved handlers and HSNO enforcement officers was raised as an implementation issue associated with the HSNO Act.[lix]

3.7.7   Comments and conclusions

New Zealand’s education framework contains a range of opportunities for education and training in various areas of occupational health and safety: provision is made for specialised post-graduate training and short courses outlining the basics of occupational health and safety in the New Zealand context.   Gaps in education and training

Some stakeholders were concerned that there is an absence of courses that bridge between full qualifications and short courses. No specific examples of possible courses that would bridge this gap were provided. It is unclear what is intended by these comments as there are a range of NZQA unit standards that can bridge between the longer courses and short courses and that can then make up a qualification.

Occupational health and some other health and safety professions require additional consideration. Gorman[22] notes that there are gaps in training for occupational physicians in terms of providing supervision of work during the training phase. This issue was also touched on by stakeholders who raised concern about the content of current medical training and the opportunities for support while studying. New Zealand is a small country and can only support training and education in topics for which demand is sufficient to make it cost-effective to develop and run courses. A pragmatic approach to the concerns regarding gaps in education is required. In some cases, while being undesirable for personal reasons, it is likely to be more cost-effective for people to complete training off-shore and then return to New Zealand, or for New Zealand to import this expertise.

In saying this, there are some gaps in training for some professionals: there are no New Zealand-based training opportunities for occupational hygiene, and general practitioners receive minimal training in occupational health. Improving the amount of information about occupational health and safety in Bachelor of Medicine courses is likely to have the greatest impact, as this group comprises one of the most common groups of health professionals in New Zealand and is likely to be the group that comes into contact with the greatest number of occupational disease and injury cases. For occupational hygiene, it may be more efficient for people to seek training outside of New Zealand.   Health and safety representative training

Anecdotal evidence from one of the largest providers of health and safety representative training suggests that there is an uneven uptake of health and safety training across the different sectors. At this stage, this is only anecdotal; however, robust research into this area is likely to provide useful information to the Department of Labour about which sectors are participating less in their health and safety representative obligations and the reasons for this lack of participation. Such research could then provide a foundation for developing tools to improve engagement.   Quality of health and safety qualifications and training: private providers

Education in New Zealand is quality assured through a range of mechanisms including the use of NZQA-approved unit standards, approval of course content through an independent third party (such as the approved health and safety representative training), or through provider registration under the Education Act. However, there are no facilities to otherwise standardise training in health and safety, particularly the training offered by private training institutions. It is likely that there are variations in the quality of training offered by private providers, although this could not be verified given the limited availability of evaluations for health and safety courses and the resourcing constraints associated with reviewing all courses on offer. This issue is discussed further in section 3.10.

The promotion of NZQA unit standards as benchmarks for quality health and safety education is a key tool that could help to ensure that quality training opportunities are available across all components of the education spectrum.

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