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What are International Safety Professionals / Specialists?

August 29, 2014

By: Wayne J. Harris

ISQEM International Safety Professional Specialist

During a recent conference I was approached by a HSE manager who asked me “what are international safety professionals”.  The reason for the question was because he had recently applied for an international job and was rejected, despite having all the necessary industry related experience.

So first of all let’s put some perspective on titles that are quite often used by people when it comes to working overseas or internationally.

For the purpose of this article the term Safety in the below titles can also be taken as OHS, EHS, HSE or any other common acronym used to define an occupational health and safety practitioner. The term Practitioner can also be taken as Manager, Advisor, Officer, or Engineer

NOTE: Different countries take different approaches to ensuring occupational health and safety.  Actual job responsibilities will vary between countries and regions.

Overseas Safety Practitioner

This term is used to define someone who sometimes works outside of their home country. In general they tend to have limited exposure to countries or continents and normally work in the same industry sectors such as construction, pharmaceuticals, petrochemical, manufacturing etc.   This title also applies to individuals who may work overseas for a few years in single geographical areas i.e. Middle East and UK (Europe).

International Safety Professional / Specialist

The international safety professional / specialist is someone who has worked fulltime in multiple countries and continents, outside of his or her home country / continent for the majority of their safety career.  They have held senior corporate level positions, involved in developing an organizations management systems or safety strategy. In general they have fulltime safety experience exceeding 20 years.

International Safety Consultant

To be called an International Safety Consultant you also need to meet the criteria of the International Safety Professional / Specialist. Plus have consulting experience.  (This title is quite often misused as people mistakenly believe by just doing a few consultancy contracts or delivering training courses overseas qualifies them an international safety consultant).

 Working at an International level

If you are looking at working in a different country you will need to take a very serious look at how you as an individual will settle in to the role. It is not a question of just having safety knowledge and experience. You will need to be a good communicator, able to think out of the box and most importantly have patience.

One of the common mistakes made by people when they first move overseas is to use their own country as the minimum benchmark for safety standards and compliance. As you travel, you will soon learn the local practices of how things are done correctly or incorrectly. However you must understand that not everything you see as a safety violation is wrong; it might just be different country rules or regulations.

You need to remember that some countries are still developing on a social and economic level. The role of the international safety practitioner / professional is to take a company on a journey of continual improvement.

One thing for sure, working on an international level will help you to gain valuable experience and knowledge of working in diverse environments. You will meet some fantastic people and have personal satisfaction of knowing that you are contributing to improving global occupational health and safety.




Author: Wayne Harris

Wayne Harris is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and HSE management systems with over 31 years’ experience. He has advised major organisations both private and governmental, on key issues of strategy and organisational risk and safety management. Working within the international arena including Europe, Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East. He has a comprehensive understanding of the global risk and safety issues facing organisations in today’s business economy. Email:

  1. Chokkappa permalink

    Good definition for International safety Professional ! Appreciations !

    Safety departmental heads who worked in Global companies could understand the socio economic issues in each country.When people can not afford to wear ordinary shoes ,the violations of not wearing Harness or not adhering to permit compliances can not be addressed directly. Safety has to be started at the basic level and begin it with top level Management and the Local leaders.

    International professionals need to understand the people issues and be harsh on issues than on people.

    Law,regulations etc, should be applied first locally and then globally.Managements shall be made to understand the advantages of compliances at Global level as most rules are more stringent than local.

    The above are a few challenges for a Safety Professionals who work in global companies.

  2. Rick permalink

    Good points Wayne. I would say you have defined the title very well.

  3. Charles Matterson permalink

    This article makes 100% sense, I agree on all accounts. Unfortunately we still see people calling themselves international OHS professionals and they are still wet behind the ears as far as experience is concerned. Sir, you are definitely a professional we can all learn from.

  4. Scott coulter permalink

    Having left canada 15 years ago to work as an “HSE consultant” in china I fully respect Wayne’s views. At that time I had about 20 years of experience and thought I was pretty good. It did not take long to learn I was a babe in the woods. Fortunately I used Wayne’s advice, without knowing it at the time, of creative applications of my knowledge set into Chinese culturally acceptable formats and a lot of patience to get superior results. After now working through Europe, the middle east and now Africa, I can honestly claim the title of international safety professional. I understand the temptation for those new to international work to claim this, but they should apply the pay your dues rule before succumbing. Well said Wayne.

  5. Ian B permalink

    Everyone I know who is on oil and gas up here in Canada starts by getting their CRSP then can challenge the CSP exam.

  6. Not a truer word to be said, great article Wayne

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