Editorial: Kenya in need of a Strong Professional Body for OSH Practitioners

By HSE East Africa | Tuesday Dec 11, 2018

In a LinkedIn post published in September 2017, Gladys Nyaga laments that she was yet to receive any feedback 3 years since applying to join The Kenya Occupational Health and Safety Association (KOHSA).  The comments arising from that post mainly from occupational safety practitioners indicate that many had no idea that the association existed.

The National Profile on Occupational Safety and Health published by the International labour Organization (ILO) in 2013 also noted that The Kenya Occupational Safety and Health Association (KOSHA) which was the registered body of OSH practitioners in Kenya as being inactive, and a process of reactivation was under way. This process is however yet to bear any fruit since the association remains largely inactive to date.

The association has not made any attempt to make its presence known. Details of the membership criteria, office location or any activities carried out by the association remain scanty. All information available so far suggests that the membership of KOSHA consists mainly of current and past employees of the Directorate of Occupational safety and Health Services (DOSHS), the government agency mandated with enhancing workplace safety in Kenya. This leaves out the majority of safety practitioners including those approved by DOSHS to carry out various duties such as OSH audits, training among others. 

Globally, Occupational Safety and Health Professional bodies are dedicated to the advancement of the knowledge and practice of the OSH professions through developing, supporting, regulating and promoting professional standards for technical and ethical competence. The professional body may have a number of functions. They may:

  • Set and assess professional examinations
  • Provide support for Continuing Professional Development through learning opportunities and tools for recording and planning
  • Publish professional journals or magazines
  • Provide networks for professionals to meet and discuss their field of expertise
  • Issue a Code of Conduct to guide professional behaviour
  • Deal with complaints against professionals and implement disciplinary procedures
  • Be enabling fairer access to the professions, so that people from all backgrounds can become professionals.
  • Provide careers support and opportunities for students, graduates and people already working.

The OSH Practitioners application form in Schedule 2 of the Draft Occupational Safety and Health Practitioners Bill, 2016 requires applicants to indicate if they are members of a professional body. Although the bill does not explicitly require applicants to be members of any specific professional bodies, it recognizes that they have a role to play in enhancing workplace safety.

It is now evident that the failure by KOSHA could greatly affect the quality of OSH practitioners in the country. There is therefore urgent need for the association to be revamped or for a separate association to be registered to provide the much needed services.

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