Staff competence on AOC Conference agenda

Health and safety | June 2016

System Concepts recently attended the annual AOC Health & Safety Conference in Nottingham, leading a session on the issue of staff competence.

Matthew Henderson, our Safety Consultant, hosted the breakfast session. He highlighted how identifying competency health and safety requirements is an integral part of any sound business model.permanent marker writing of word expert

What are competency health and safety requirements?

Competency is a straightforward enough concept involving the right mix of applicable skills, knowledge, and experience to undertake the job safely. Competency requirements, however, are not always so straightforward: the challenge for organisations is to understand what is actually needed to effectively manage health and safety – and ultimately, to control risk.

Matthew advised organisations to go ‘back to basics’, not relying on legislation alone to identify what they need to have in place. Regulations will often state the need for ‘competence’ or ‘competent persons’, without elaborating on what this means or how these can be acquired.

If competency is about controlling risk, then organisations need to know what the risks are from their activities, in order to identify exactly what is required.

HSG65 ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ model

The HSG65 ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ model of health and safety management urges organisations to consider health and safety as an integral part of its activities and everyday business, not as an afterthought.

Typically, organisations will leave it to their Health and Safety policy to define competencies under roles and responsibilities. Following the HSG65 model, organisations should set out desired health and safety competencies when putting together job descriptions and person specifications, before recruiting into positions.

Businesses evolve – and risks change

During Matthew’s conference session, he acknowledged that not all competency requirements are immediately apparent. As businesses evolve, so too will operational risks and competency requirements. So organisations must continue to monitor competence requirements in order to identify gaps – and look to close any gaps quickly.

With a bit of forward planning, organisations can at least anticipate what they need to have in place to keep up with evolutionary changes. If they can do this, rather than react too late or not at all, they will minimise risks to their people and themselves.

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