One of the accreditation requirements for certification boards is to ensure content validity for the examination(s) leading to the certification awarded. The certifying organization must demonstrate through recognized methodologies that the examination contents cover what people actually do in practice and the knowledge and skills required to be able to perform their work. In achieving accreditation through the standards of ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 relating to certification of persons and the standards of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals demonstrated that the contents of the examinations leading to the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation cover what safety professionals do in practice.
The approach used to demonstrate content validity for certification examinations is virtually identical to studies used to establish the contents of training and education programs for trades and professions. The approach is called job analysis or role delineation. The methodology outlines what people do (functions or domains and tasks or responsibilities) and the knowledge and skills required to perform each task. Completion of such studies is expensive, in part driven by the number of participants in the study. As a result, unless practice for a trade or profession changes rapidly, organizations perform such studies every few years only.
The purpose of this article is to summarize the most recent job analysis study conducted for the Certified Safety Professional and to demonstrate how to use the results to evaluate an academic curriculum that prepares people for professional safety practice.
In 1999, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals completed its most recent study of professional safety practice. The study1 was conducted in three stages, following the currently recognized procedures used by certification and licensure boards.
The first stage involved a panel of 16 people, each from a different job setting in professional safety. The study report provides details on panel members. A facilitator led the three-day procedure. The process began by defining the major functions (also called domains) of professional safety practice. The group then defined the tasks (also called responsibilities) that make up each job function. In each step, the group reached consensus on the wording of each function and task. In the final task, the panel defined the knowledge and skills essential for each task. This resulted in 192 knowledge and 147 skill statements that define professional safety practice. Among the knowledge and skill statements, there are approximately 130 unique knowledge statements and 123 unique skill statements.
The second stage involved drafting a mail-out survey and pilot testing it. The purpose of the survey was to validate the work of the panel and to acquire ratings of each function and task on three rating scales. The purpose of the pilot study was to gain feedback on the survey content and format in order to refine the instrument and to identify any gaps in the definitions of practice. The pilot survey went to approximately 300 safety professionals in practice.