Our short series about development of competence in safety and health concludes with the achievement of the ‘Black belt’ in safety – and what comes after…
Brown to Black
The thing with ‘Brown belts’ is that they know their stuff yet they can lack confidence. Others can see how good they are, but they might not yet quite see it in themselves.
It had been a long road. I’d struggled to learn the basics and had had frequent failures. Every time I messed up I asked “What went wrong” and “How can I do better next time”. I read, I practised and I learnt. I improved. I became more confident and, without really realising it, more competent. I’d passed my diploma exams but was still aware that I wasn’t yet ‘there’.
I’d passed all the academic requirements but still didn’t feel ‘competent’. For that I needed more experience; time for a job change. I applied for a more senior position with a global organisation and was delighted when they offered me the post. My diploma had had the desired effect, so I now needed to show I could do the job! That was more than a little scary!
My new job gave me free rein to develop and implement a safety management system and to develop the company’s safety culture. Mindful of my own limitations, I surrounded myself with people who knew more than me. I learnt from them and soon realised that my confidence, and with it my competence, was growing. I gradually became aware that others were looking to me for solutions, which was a world away from a few years before when I first stepped into the arena and could hardly stand up. In short, I was seen by others as a ‘competent person’. I had developed and implemented systems, I had realised how things could be changed and improved and my team had taken my lead. Only one thing left – apply for ‘Chartered’ status.
I submitted my portfolio, which showed the work I had done and the experience I had gained in my years since starting down the path to becoming a practitioner. My application was supported by references and examples of the types of work I’d done. It was examined by IOSH, whose officers took the final decision as to whether I should be graded ‘CMIOSH’ (or ‘black belt’ if you prefer). I was exceedingly proud when I received my Chartership just a few weeks later – I’d made it.
Black Belt and Beyond
In becoming a ‘black belt’ in safety, I realised that I had not done it alone. I had had the support of my family, who gave me the time to spend many hours in the evenings learning my craft. I was thankful to my safety reps who never failed to tell me when I had a crap idea and whose common sense steered me on the right path. I was grateful to my teachers, whose guidance and insight allowed me to understand the mass of information more clearly. I was even grateful to NEBOSH, who set exam questions that I actually knew something about!
Becoming an expert in any career takes time, effort, application and tenacity, but, like the sport of judo, if you keep getting up when you’re knocked down and you learn from the experience, you will get there. It’s not for everyone, but everyone does have a chance to achieve whatever they want, provided they want it enough.
As to the future, I continue to learn. I’m happy to say that I get things right more often than I get them wrong, but there’s always something new to learn. Continual Professional Development helps me to stay on top of my game, as does a continuing desire to ensure good standards of health, safety and welfare in the workplace. I’m now an experienced, dare I say ‘competent’ trainer and consultant and look forward to being a small part in the story of some of the new generation of safety advisors who I have the privilege to teach and guide. And yes, I remain keen to learn.
Have these articles inspired you to develop your competence in safety and health management? Why not enrol on any one of our short health and safety courses and pick up some CPD points? We run half day courses on Corporate Manslaughter and full day courses in risk assessment, control of contractors and others – check out the links on this page and book today.