Competency is defined as the ability of an individual to do a job properly. A competent person is someone who is able to interpret the situation in the context of which it is occurring. And, then take appropriate action, which will have been learned through training and experience. Regardless of training, competency grows through experience and the ability of the individual to adapt to change and their cognitive ability. Other factors, such as physical ability and attitude may affect a person’s competence. The use of the word “competency” varies widely in workplaces which can lead to confusion. It can have different meanings, for example, competency behaviours of a manager might include the ability to negotiate, influence and possess a high level of social intelligence. This may be different from that expected of, for example, a junior employee in a IT related role, where competency will most likely involve analytical skills, paying attention to detail and execution of tasks.
Health and safety competency in the workplace cannot be undervalued. It is an important component which should be integral to the work duties and not an ad-on or extra entity to be adhered to. All employers and managers have a duty to ensure their employees (and contractors) are fully trained, experienced and suitable for their roles, both from a health and safety and task based perspective. Particular industries or work environments require the individual to have a certain set of skills and training, according to law, for them to carry out their duties. The Health and Safety Act 1974 requires employers to provide whatever information, training, instruction and supervision as is necessary, to ensure, in so far as is practicable, the health and safety of their employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, further necessitates where, health and safety training is particularily relevant, i.e when people start work and working with hazards. A Health and Safety trainer or employee representative may be required to train employees in their areas of work in regard to health and safety. According to the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996, all employees must be consulted in relation to health and safety matters. Self employed people in the work environment are entitled to the same health and safety training as their permanent employed colleagues. In most cases, businesses can manage health and safety themselves, but some will need specialist help for more detailed or more technical issues. Specialist help should be from someone with the relevant training and experience, being a member of the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) is a good sign.
Stages to making a competent workplace
- Employees and their representatives should be consulted on the training to be introduced, their views considered and how the training will be organized
- The skills and knowledge should be identified for employees to do their tasks in a safe way. This should be compared with current skills and knowledge and any gaps identified
- Injuries, near-misses or ill health should be looked at
- Risk assessments should be done in all areas of the work, and risks mitigated against through relevant training
- A general awareness for health and safety should be encouraged in the workplace, for example, who is responsible for what, hazards encountered and how they are controlled
- With conjunction with the law, priorities should be given to situations like new equipment being used, new recruits, people changing jobs
- The most appropriate way of training should be considered i.e by classroom, instruction, giving information, computer based or interactive learning
- Much information, materials and training courses can be sourced from trade unions, colleges, private training organizations, National Occupational Standards (www.ukstandards.co.uk) etcOnce training has been done, areas to be monitored could include – are the workers now working in a safe way? has their been an improvement in the organisation’s health and safety performance? has the most suitable method of training been used and is further training needed?
These guiding principles will create for a safe working environment where the welfare of all the priority in the execution of daily duties.