Advances in education add professional edge

A continuing drive to improve educational and training standards across the environmental and waste sectors reflects the demand for better qualified personnel throughout the environmental disciplines, through waste management and in the critical area of street and on-site operations. In this special feature LAWE reports on recent developments in the institutions and industry bodies which are giving all those involved in the environmental and waste areas an increasingly professional edge through training.

Professional development was a key issue addressed by David Purchon, President of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, in his foreword to the CIEH's annual report for 1999. "We operate all over the world as a skills training provider and information technology is vital to our service provision," he stated. "Our professional Intranet, EHCnet, also continues to provide a valuable service to members, particularly those in local government and its maintenance is essential."

In the context of devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, he reported that in Scotland the CIEH's collaboration with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) was growing from strength to strength and "we are both eager to collaborate more closely with the Environmental Health Officers Association of Eire to pursue common aims across the British Isles, particularly in education and continuous professional training."

The CIEH President said that progress had been made during 1999 in the development of a diploma in health and safety enforcement for technical officers. Courses were expected to be available for commencement in September 2000 at a number of universities and colleges.

Earlier this year local authority health and safety inspectors were urged to pay more attention to the provision of proper health and safety training, especially among young workers.

Last year, 21 workers under the age of 25 died as a result of accidents in the workplace. The CIEH also quotes figures from a recent TUC poll which revealed that one on three workers in this age group have not had any health and safety training, despite the employer's legal obligation to provide.

According to the CIEH this cannot be dismissed as a coincidence. "The CIEH urges health and safety inspectors to ensure that they enquire about the adequacy of training when they inspect a premises," said CEIH Assistant Secretary Mike Garton.

The equivalent of 1,440 inspectors are employed by local authorities who enforce health and safety in around 1,210,000 premises in the UK.

The CIEH, which works in partnerships with organisations around the world to provide qualifications, training products, services and support materials, in its role as an awarding body offers qualifications at various levels in food hygiene, health and safety, environmental protection and training skills. Around 300,000 certificates are issued each year to successful candidates from around the world.

Inter-disciplinary trend
The increasingly complementary roles of the environmental, health and safety professionals are reflected in the growth of educational and training opportunities which integrate these closely allied disciplines.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), for example, which lays claim to be Europe's leading body representing individuals within professional health and safety, is turning its attention to the environmental field.

IOSH's primary aim is to promote the health, safety and welfare of people at work and of those affected by work activities. The Institution supports the cause of occupational safety through training courses, seminars, conferences and publications.

In the environmental field, as part of the 2000 Professional Development Training portfolio, IOSH currently offers four different courses in Environmental Management.

Introduction to environmental issues is a basic awareness course providing a foundation for understanding the environment, the regulatory regime that governs environmental management today and how to identify the main environmental risks for business. (One-day course).

The environmental practitioner-part one is the first segment of a three-part course, introducing the basic theories and techniques to manage environmental issues competently. These courses can be taken in combination or may stand alone. Part one covers the principles of environmental auditing and provides an understanding of management systems, including the implementation of ISO 14001. (Two-day course).

The environmental practitioner - part two focuses on air and water quality. It aims to provide delegates with a detailed understanding of the principles of law and practice relating to the control of air emissions and water pollution and the skills to audit, and recommend improvements to, the management of water and air pollution. (Three-day course).

The environmental practitioner - part three concentrates on waste management, contaminated land and planning issues as they apply to industry and commerce and how to advise management on potential liabilities and responsibilities regarding waste disposal and contaminated land. (Three-day course).

IOSH offers a full range of professional development courses in addition to those specified above, including risk assessment and techniques and risk management training.

Academic route
On the academic front, environmental science has developed as a widely available discipline over the past decade with many institutions offering post-graduate and vocational courses tailored for the needs of practising professionals and managers in the environmental and waste fields.

The University of Bath, for example, through its Department of Continuing and Distance Education, provides a course in Integrated Environmental Management. Combining eight modules with a residential component and dissertation this will lead to an MSc award. In 1999 the course became on one of the first in the UK to be awarded full Certification from the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. This award provides automatic Associate Membership status on successful completion of Bath's MSc.

The programme has attracted professionals with environmental responsibilities working across a wide spectrum of the public sector, business and industry.

Current participants include environmental health officers, environmental managers, environmental policy officers, environmental consultants, environmental process engineers, civil engineers, chemical engineers, health and safety engineers, local government officers, project managers, quantity surveyors, solicitors, town planners and energy managers.

The Open University remains one of the key centres for education in this area, through its undergraduate and post-graduate courses within the Department of Environmental and Mechanical Engineering.

Reflecting a significant trend in inter-disciplinary fields in this broad sector, the Open University runs a course on Integrated Safety, Health and Environmental Management.

The edie dedicated environmental website, which is part of the Faversham House Group, publisher of LAWE, provides a wide-ranging guide to training facilities in the waste and environmental sector by accessing www.edie.net



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