One of the things that upsets me the most is hearing of cases where small contractors have been ripped off by unscrupulous “consultants” selling them the promise that they will be STOW certified if they just pay the consultant some exorbitant fee. It really makes me see red. 

I have been told of cases of small contractors paying consultants as much as $100,000, and then selling them safety management system manuals which could have been downloaded for free from our website. What especially annoys me is hearing stories when consultants somehow imply that they “know someone” at the Energy Chamber and that this will guarantee them certification. In reality, “knowing someone” is of no advantage; assessors are randomly assigned and there are three subsequent levels of quality control and assurance once an assessment is complete and before a certificate is issued. 

We have tried to police this situation through various methods. 

Firstly, we have copyright to the acronym “STOW” and the name Safe to Work and we have taken action against any consultants who falsely claim alignment with the programme (only certified STOW assessors and certified companies can use the STOW brand). 

Secondly, we have identified and trained a group of assessors, who can also work as consultants, who are very knowledgeable about STOW and who have signed a code of conduct regulating their professional behaviour. If they violate that code of conduct when working as a consultant, we can (and have) taken action against them and have removed or suspended them from the list of approved assessors. The list of approved assessors is available on the STOW website and should be the first port of call for any company wanting to hire a consultant to help them with STOW certification. 

The third area where we have taken action, is in the development of numerous tools and training modules that are designed to help small contractors achieve STOW certification, with no need to hire expensive consultants. Finally, we have communicated frequently with small contractors, through various channels, that they should not pay for any consultant until they have spoken with us and checked what resources are freely available to assist them in STOW implementation. 

Despite all this, we still come across these unfortunate cases where small contractors have fallen prey to unscrupulous consultants. The issue of unscrupulous “safety consultants” was also on my mind during my recent visit to Guyana and the conversations I had with various stakeholders concerning the development of a safety culture in response to the new oil and gas industry. Exxon and its partners have sent a clear message about the need for local suppliers to meet high international safety standards and that message seems to be getting through to many potential suppliers in Guyana. The Centre for Local Business Development has been providing the Guyanese private sector with safety awareness training, reiterating the need for local contractors to implement safety management systems. 

The obvious concern is that this drive for improved HSE management might inadvertently create a market for poor quality and unscrupulous consultants. I would strongly encourage responsible public and private sector stakeholders in Guyana to come together and plan for how they are going to address this potential problem. Guyana is going to need a cadre of skilled and ethical HSE consultants and local companies will need to be guided on how they can select and work with the good consultants. 

Our experiences in Trinidad and Tobago could be very useful to Guyana in this regard. In fact, the Energy Chamber arguably has a bit of a responsibility to actively assist, as many of the good and the not-so-good HSE consultants operating in Guyana are likely to be from Trinidad and Tobago. We are open to contributing our knowledge and experience and working with both public and private sector stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcome. 

Building the HSE profession in Guyana will be a major strand of discussions at the upcoming second annual Guyana Safety Forum, which we are hosting in Georgetown on the 16 October 2019. This will provide a good opportunity for stakeholders to identify some of the actions that are needed to ensure that there is a well-functioning HSE profession in Guyana, able to support the new oil and gas industry, as well as the existing sectors such as mining and manufacturing. We are committed to playing our part.