Technical Corner

Understanding Professional Accreditation

August 14, 2023

Recreation operations offer a challenging and constantly changing work environment. Sifting through the ORFA weekly ENews Job Postings provides a snapshot with regards to how complicated and diverse the industry is. Job postings in recreation are often custom designed with some core responsibilities being standard. Hiring staff that arrive ready to go to work is difficult and most recreation workplaces are not prepared to offer a comprehensive workplace specific training plan to fill any gaps that a new worker may need to be considered competent and/or qualified to immediately take care and control of a recreation facility. Attracting and retaining the right candidate can be a challenge. How professional accreditation fits into operational objectives requires careful consideration based on an operations risk reduction strategy.

Health and safety professionals define “root cause” of a workplace accident as an underlying or fundamental reason for any failure of safety observance. Identifying root cause is essential for a facility manager to correct any existing problem or to prevent it from happening. The history of the ORFA is rooted in addressing safety matters that were developing as industrial refrigeration became predominate in offering indoor ice sports. The evolution of the aquatic industry brought industrial strength chemicals and processes and grounds operations cycled through the use of industrial strength pesticides and other chemicals to assist in improving or controlling vegetation. Each of these workplace responsibilities had one common factor – a lack of comprehensive and proven worker training and skill development.

Professional certification, trade certification, or professional designation, often simply called certification or qualification, is a designation earned by an individual person to assure qualification to perform a job or task. Not all certifications are an acknowledgement of educational achievement, or an agency appointed to safeguard the public interest. Source: Professional certification - Wikipedia

Each organization that offers professional accreditation is responsible to oversee the management of the accreditation. Best practice for recertification is no longer than 60-months. There is no obligation to require retraining by the organization managing the accreditation to recertify. If there is no set requirement by the governing agency than the holder is expected to design an ongoing professional development plan that confirms that they remain current and up to date.

Many professions (accountants, health care, etc.) develop and maintain a set mandatory professional development plan. Many are a legal obligation to be met before a new worker is hired. Once in place, a mentoring plan often forms part of the training pathway before the worker is allowed to take care and control in some form of supervisory capacity. Recreation largely remains a “learn as you go” workplace. Historically, recreation has limited mandatory worker training requirements. Lifeguards are the most defined recreation worker in respect to accreditation and recertification across Canada. Although there may be some slight deviation to meet specific provincial or territorial needs, the core training is clearly defined making selection and ongoing training requirements a simplified managerial task. National Lifeguard is current for two years and has a set recertification training pathway. Industrial refrigeration is the next defined regulatory obligation, but it becomes complicated based on design and construction variables. The registration of the plant will define the owner’s strict obligation to have certified staff or not. If a refrigeration plant requires certified staff to be in care and control of the equipment, recertification of these individuals has no set guideline for professional development but rather an annual licensing fee is paid to the governing agency which confirms that the holder carries the certification. This expiry is annual. In grounds operations, exterminations that require pesticide permits are set out in the Pesticides Act and O. Reg. 63/09. Certain types of exterminations require both a pesticide licence and a permit. This expiry is annual with no set training pathway, but a fee must be paid.

Melting down this information to ensure each operation is being as diligent as possible is left with facility management to navigate. Legally required certifications are mandatory without exception. Often, facility management believes that certification is a guarantee of competency that requires no further investment by the employer. Consider the liability of a worker who obtained certification 10 plus years ago and has no proven ongoing professional development that confirms they remain informed of changes specific to the certification discipline. The accountability for this gap will be partially held by the immediate supervisor. Certifications that have no set training pathway for recertification will require facility management to develop some form of check and balance that confirms that the employee remains current and up to date specific to the certification. If the employer does not set out these expectations then they must assume the liability of the worker not being up to date. In addition, accreditation does not dissolve facility management responsibility to provide workplace specific training. The ORFA offers a variety of professional designations [more] that are not legally required but are considered industry best practice for minimum professional development for a variety of recreational operational and management disciplines.

The question becomes why do organizations like ORFA invest in the development and maintenance of professional accreditations that are not legally required? The answer is that as a professional organization responsible for gatekeeping information, past incidents/accidents and other matters that impact our industry are considered important information that must be provided as a necessary leadership role to our membership or possibly be held accountable by the courts for failing to act appropriately. Anytime there is a lack of regulated competency/qualification, the governing agency or courts will lean on professional organizations like the ORFA to determine the minimum that an operation should have been functioning at - if ever called into question. What role does professional accreditation play in our industry? It is reasonable to expect that any worker who has the responsibility of supervising themselves or other staff members should have some ability to prove that they are qualified to perform such a duty. Employers may develop their own internal training pathway that match or exceeds industry training standards.

The ORFA remains committed as industry leaders to provide the necessary guidance to our members to ensure they are recognized as a profession. How quickly this occurs will be based on the adoption of these best practices by the members. As a practitioner…you are the ORFA.

    Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Director, Training, Research and Development, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association

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