Journey to Chartered Fellow
Gary and Derek have each described their different journeys to CMIOSH and it’s obvious to anyone that no matter which route you pick, you’ll endure hard work and wracked nerves. But it is absolutely worth it. For each of us as individuals, that professional accreditation makes a real difference to our personal pride and our professional standing. And, collectively, it is crucial that a respectable profession should have a strong cadre of chartered members who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder (or nose-to-nose) with other professionals.
When you’ve achieved CMIOSH, you surely deserve a bit of a rest. But there’s one more step, and you can take it within just five years of achieving CMIOSH. I didn’t. To be fair, you used to need ten years as a CMIOSH, but I’m still out of excuses and I hope my story will encourage you to think now, plan now, and get CFIOSH at your earliest opportunity. It’s worth it for the kudos (personal and collective), and the things you need to do to get Chartered Fellow are good for you and good for health and safety.
Collectively, all 48,000 IOSH members would benefit from your efforts because the organisation and profession will gain ever more credibility and clout as the proportion of Fellows rises. Currently, Fellows are just 1% of the total membership (female Fellows just 0.1%). Would it be so hard to double that?
Chartered Fellow is not a knowledge hurdle, it’s about contribution and influence: what have you done for health and safety; how have you gone above and beyond your day job; how have you made life better for people you aren’t paid to look after? I didn’t have a problem with racking up the contributions, but keeping track of them and filing the evidence became quite painful. If you’re starting now, you have the tremendous advantage of your online CPD record and the documents you can attach. It will make your journey so much easier if you build the fellowship criteria into your development plans and think CFIOSH as you record your reflective statements and attach pieces of evidence.
But what kind of evidence? The excellent IOSH guidance suggests that Chartered Fellows should have contributed through:
- the development of occupational safety and health through work in IOSH at any level (branch, group, standing committee and so on)
- outstanding service on local, national or international professional committees
- peer-acclaimed contributions or improvements to the public understanding of occupational safety and health
- helped to develop and influence the careers of others, including less experienced occupational safety and health professionals
- actively researched, developed and applied original work or expertise in occupational safety and health
- gained highly specialised knowledge or responsibility in occupational safety and health, and published work or relevant technical presentations
- carried out or been involved in promoting occupational safety and health outside your normal work, including activities begun as a work requirement that you’ve taken beyond that requirement.
Before you panic, IOSH don’t expect anyone to meet all those criteria, and the list is not exhaustive - ie, there are other ways to make an outstanding contribution. What are you already doing? What more would work for you? What will fit in with your passions, your talents and your life?
Getting started on A was easy because in the early days the evening meetings of BOHS and IOSH were fantastic sources of topical information and, more importantly, fantastic ways to share ideas with like-minded people. When you’re a subject specialist, you can feel quite alone in your organisation and it feels good to get together with fellow geeks. (For a bit). Actually satisfying requirement A involves a bit more than attending branch meetings in receive mode, and in my case I’ve enjoyed long spells serving on Group committees, getting involved in events and publications for telecommunications and research.
I was lucky in having worked early-on for a boss (Mike Buttolph) who inspired his team to research the science behind their work, to be curious, and to share ideas and questions with colleagues, with other professionals, and with other broadcasters. It was good for the organisation (the BBC) and good for us, and got me started on E and F. We were encouraged to represent the Corporation on HSE working groups and professional networking groups, which got A and C underway. Although these all started as part of my day job, most of these activities grew into research and presentations and working groups that went above and beyond.
Then, one of my projects (noise in orchestras) grew so much it covered B. Most of us have a spread of interests, and my membership of other professional bodies such as the CMI, IOA, BCI provided opportunities to promote health and safety beyond my normal work. That left D, but hopefully we’re all doing that. If not, what can you offer - mentoring, coaching, shadowing, mock review, or just raising someone’s sights. We can all do something.
You need two referees, one to be a CFIOSH or CEO/Executive Director, and the second to be a chartered member of IOSH or another Professional body. I had no hesitation in approaching two very old friends who I’ve worked with on committees and projects and will take this opportunity to again thank Lawrence Waterman and Tim Briggs for their generous and immensely positive support. We all tend to be quite harsh with ourselves and it is a real pleasure sometimes to understand how other people see us.
The referees are asked if they’ve read your portfolio, how long they’ve known you and in what capacity. They need to know you well enough to answer two substantial questions:
- Does the applicant meet any of the ‘Criteria for Chartered Fellowship’ as outlined in the guidance notes? Please list all of the criteria that you know first-hand that the applicant meets, and give details about each one.
- Do you think that the applicant has the qualities to represent IOSH as a Chartered Fellow? Please give your reasons.
So if you aren’t finding the time for professional networking, here’s another reason to carve out space for your future.
You are asked to put together a portfolio demonstrating that you meet the criteria. I simply followed the structure of the IOSH guidance. Some of the sections needed a lot of time ploughing through old diaries and files to remind myself of committees and conferences from thirty years ago. Other sections were mind maps that I’d let my brain work on off-line, then return and expand, think off-line, repeat, remembering to address not only the what but the so-what.
- How I became involved in occupational safety and health
- CV, Job Description, reporting and governance structures
- Professional bodies, consultative committees, working groups
- Offices held in IOSH
- OSH interests and activities outside my normal employment
- Health and Safety Initiatives with implications beyond employing organization.
- Original research in OSH, published works, papers, lectures etc.
- How I have actively promoted occupational safety and health
- The benefits of Fellowship, and how it will help me contribute to IOSH’s objectives
I had some examples of fellowship portfolios that friends had successfully submitted - ranging from the concise to extensive. These helped me be comfortable that there was no single perfect model I needed to emulate, and my portfolio should just evidence the criteria and suit me. (IOSH themselves say you can present your portfolio in any way that you want).
At my local IOSH branch, Ray Fuller shared his story of achieving CFIOSH and I took up his offer of casting an eye over my draft.
So, in went my portfolio and referees’ statements and back came a date for my interview with a panel of three Chartered Fellows. I chose to do a presentation and constructed an idiosyncratic six slides of images - because I find it easier to think when I’m looking at images rather than words, and they make it much simpler to tell a story.
On the day, the panel couldn’t have been nicer - thoroughly professional, but relaxed and welcoming - and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an interview as much. You are promised a result within three weeks but I received an email just two working days later, and my new membership certificate arrived in the post the next day, hotly followed by a gold lapel pin.
If you don’t see many gold lapel pins, it may be because only 1% of IOSH members are Chartered Fellows (and only 10% of Fellows are female). A serious profession needs a cadre of Fellows. When will you join them?
Alison Wright Reid
Broadcasting & Telecommunications Group Chair