This topic was suggested to me by a blog reader, M.F., an HSE trainer from a country in South Asia, who commented on the dismal state of HSE in his country:
“Organisations state that they are adopting HSE but in reality they don’t have HSE departments in their organisations. Secondly, most of the consultants or institutes who teaching HSE certifications are fake and they are working with third-party contract from another country….”
As a long-time resident of Asia, one comes quickly to accept the widespread and highly visible trade in counterfeit goods. These range from the ubiquitous “Rolex” watches and “Prada” handbags through to fake university diplomas and transcripts.
So, is it any surprise then that some so-called “HSE Professionals” not only have fake diplomas/degrees but also fake OSHA cards, NEBOSH and IOSH certificates and other “credentials”? Or, that many companies have fake HSE Departments, fake ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 certificates or that these certificates were generated from ISO “mills”? Or, that environmental monitoring data are falsified? Or, that EIA studies done for new projects may have been subject to fraud and bribes?
This issue of fake credentials is most definitely unfair for the HSE Professionals who have made the time and financial commitment to gain a real education in the field, not to mention the risks posed to worker health & safety and the environment.
How Widespread is This Problem?
It is of course very difficult, if not impossible, to get accurate estimates of the extent of this problem. My guess is it is wider spread than many of us would want to believe. A quick scan via google and one can find many such examples:
- Improperly licensed EIA firms in China
- ISO "mills" producing ISO certificates
- Fake air quality data in China
- Fake university degrees in Thailand
This is not only restricted to the developing world:
- Fake safety and PPE certificates in Europe
- Fake safety cards in UK construction
- Fake safety certificates in South Korean nuclear firms
- Fake OSHA cards in US
What Can be Done About It?
In my experience, only on a very small minority of companies make a real effort to verify credentials during the hiring process or vendor procurement process. Why? Well, it is time consuming and can be costly. But, as has been noted by countless others – if you believe it is too expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you employ an amateur!
As a first step, we must recognize that it is a buyer-beware world within which we operate.
So, if you are hiring HSE staff or consultants, take the time to talk to them, ask them specific questions about their experience and some basic HSE questions that pertain to your operations. Ask about their certifications, where they studied, course content, etc. If you are not satisfied with the answers then look for someone else.
The same goes with suppliers. If you and your organization are truly committed to sustainable business practices, then you may need to convince those responsible for procurement of the need to conduct some basic level of HSE auditing of key suppliers.
Unfortunately, I am not sure what advice I can give to the HSE Professional who invests his or her time and money into a proper education and then sees others take jobs with fake credentials. This must be at the very least disheartening.
Perhaps by raising the profile of this issue we can make some slight difference.
I am certain sure that most of us in this field have run across such individuals and can give many examples of incompetence from supposedly highly qualified personnel or have interviewed candidate who looked exceptional on paper were incapable of answering the most basic HSE questions. Or, perhaps you have lost out on tenders or sales to competitors with fake credentials. I would be most interested in hearing your comments and experiences related to this topic.
Finally, I would like to thank M.F. for the suggestion of the topic and wish him all the best in his HSE career!
Thanks for reading. Keep safe. Be healthy. Respect your environment.
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Next Week’s Blog Topic: Are Phase I Environmental ESAs in Asia a Waste of Time and Money? Property Transfer and Environmental Liability in Asia
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