KEEPING A WORKFORCE SAFE, HEALTHY AND DOING THEIR JOB
For an organisation to be successful, it's critically important not to compromise the health and safety of its workforce or people affected by its activities, says Hazel Harvey, professional affairs director at IOSH.
From senior managers to factory floor workers, all need to appreciate and understand their role in this. Senior managers, clearly, have to have a greater understanding of how poor health and safety performance will affect their business. But, workers, too, need to understand the immediate risks posed by the hazards they face during their working day.
The diversity of the people employed by a company will affect the safety of that organisation, and it's important that everyone working there understands this. Training needs to be of a type that will inform or instruct at a level appropriate for the workers in the organisation - and since there might be several different types of employee, the training required is likely to be different for each type. Fortunately, there's a range of suitable training available to help your organisation achieve its goals.
Training for workers
It's often said that the people in a workforce are its most valuable asset - so it's essential to train these people to protect themselves from harm. Training at this level is not about qualification but about giving people sufficient awareness to recognise hazards they face and assess the level of risk they may be exposed to. Training here doesn't need to be complicated, or go into great detail on legal requirements. Normally, training of this sort can be delivered in around a day, although this might be split into several shorter sessions, or 'toolbox talks'.
People who have received this sort of awareness training need to have the training regularly refreshed to keep it at the forefront of their mind. It's no good just going out and getting them trained, only to allow them to forget all about it a few months later. Refresher training doesn't even have to be formal, you could devise a simple game or quiz or just hold a discussion with members of your workforce to reinforce messages from the training.
One such widely recognised programme is 'Working safely', which is accredited by the UK-based professional body the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). This course isn't a qualification, but everyone who completes it successfully gets a certificate at the end of the course. It's run by licensed trainers, who will be recognised members of IOSH. If a more formal qualification is required there are, in addition to IOSH, a number of other bodies which run these types of programme.
Training for supervisors
Supervisors in workplaces can often make a big difference to the safety record of an organisation. To be effective, the supervisor not only has to have the same knowledge as the workforce but the skills to ensure they maintain safe working practices. Supervisors should receive the same training as the workforce but this should then be developed to include the specific responsibilities and requirements of a supervisor who has responsibility for others. This would normally include legislative requirements, motivational and disciplinary skills.
Training for managers
Managers have overall responsibility for the safety of the workforce, even where immediate responsibility rest with a supervisor. Managers, therefore, need to have considerable knowledge of what is required of them. They need to know about the hazards and risks their workforce may be exposed to, and have some knowledge of how to control them.
The extent of the training they undergo will be determined by the type of industry they're involved in. Those in high hazard industries would be expected to have more knowledge of the issues their workforce face, and many of them will be technical specialists in their own right. This doesn't necessarily mean, however, they will be focused on safety.
IOSH's 'Managing safely' course focuses on safety management systems and give managers the knowledge and skills to implement these in their workplaces. The programme also trains managers to undertake risk assessments on the activities in their spheres of operation. The course typically lasts 24 contact hours.
That is one option, but for those managers and supervisors who need more technical information it may be necessary to undertake more formal safety education. One of the most recognised qualifications in this area is the NEBOSH Certificate, available in both UK and International versions. The International Certificate has been specially developed for those outside the UK and does not contain the same level of UK legislative requirements, preferring to focus on ILO (International Labour Organization) guidelines for occupational health and safety.
These education programmes are often the starting point for people wishing to enter the occupational safety and health profession and typically consist of about 80 taught hours. This type of course is recognised by IOSH as an entry level to its Technician Membership category. Programmes shorter than this do not meet the requirements to enter the profession.
Educating the specialists
Many people develop an interest in safety issues through the initial training programmes already mentioned. However, to progress to becoming a professional it is necessary to undertake a formal education programme. These programmes are available at both graduate and post-graduate level which course you take is usually determined by the other qualifications a person already has. There is a range of qualifications available.
When choosing a qualification, however, you need to take care. Some qualifications available over the internet are not recognised by IOSH. In addition to degrees, NEBOSH also offers a professional level 6 diploma in occupational safety and health in an international version, which meets the professional accreditation standard required by IOSH.
By selecting a formally accredited qualification, you will gain the knowledge you need to become a health and safety professional. This route of study is in-depth and requires at least 400 hours of formal study, plus a considerable amount of self-study, so enrolling is a considerable commitment.
While most of the health and safety profession still enters as a second career, there is now a shift towards initial degree level education on a full-time basis and these programmes are an ideal introduction to the knowledge required to be a professional.
Before progressing to Chartered Membership of IOSH (CMIOSH), which is recognised as the professional level for safety and health practitioners, both in the UK and increasingly on a global basis, it is necessary to complete a period of Initial Professional Development (IPD). This requires an individual to demonstrate they have the knowledge, skills and experience to practice in the discipline. Additionally, all members of IOSH have to complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to demonstrate that they maintain and develop their skills and experience. IOSH members are continually required to identify the gaps in their competence and source training to meet these gaps where necessary.
To maintain safe workplaces, it's vital that the advice given relating to safety management and technical health and safety issues is the best available. That's why employers are advised to employ a Chartered Professional and also to recognise that ongoing training is necessary for this professional's CPD.
The buck stops here
None of this, however, absolves directors and senior managers of their responsibilities. As the controlling minds of an organisation, directors and senior managers have the chief moral and legal duty to manage health and safety in their workplace.
Training programmes have been developed for directors, but it's debatable whether 'training' is the best way to make them aware of their responsibilities. It's probably more realistic to produce director briefings, which include a short assessment and issue a certificate to show their commitment to safety. Although not an absolute necessity, this does give the right message to the rest of the organisation - that safety starts at the top.
This kind of programme needs to include directors' legal and moral duties and what they need to do to cover these responsibilities. So there's no need to go into too much detail, although the most important parts need to be clearly emphasised. For instance, directors and senior managers need to be shown the importance of carrying out risk assessments to prevent injuries, but they probably don't need to know every minute detail of what's in a risk assessment.
Putting people first
I've looked at the various people who make an organisation and their different but equally important training requirements. It's critical to remember that it's people who make an organisation work and that these people need to be protected. Initial and ongoing training, as necessary, is a key investment for any organisation.
High quality assessment of an organisation's health and safety training requirements is absolutely essential to ensuring a safe working environment. Quite simply, good health and safety is good business!
A trainer's view
John Jenkins, from Jays Training, provides health and safety training all over the world. Here he talks about some of the challenges he faces in making sure his training is fit for purpose in a global market.
Globalisation has brought with it an increasing requirement for health and safety training overseas. It is mostly but not always driven by multinationals, such as oil and gas companies, who want to have common standards around the world.
Many governments, too, are keen to ensure that they have the best safety standards from wherever they exist in the world. That often means copying or adapting what works in other countries and applying them in their own country to ensure the safety of their own working population.
Wherever you are working, health and safety training is a key way of ensuring companies are able to achieve the standards demanded by the countries law. Whether I'm training in Egypt, Kazakhstan or Nigeria there is generally no difference to training in the UK. There will be safety professionals, managers and supervisors all on the course, many of them working for international companies with very good safety knowledge.
As a UK-based tutor, delegates don't expect me to know about their country's specific health and safety requirements. Most of the time, they're happy to explain them to me! What they are looking for is to see if they can improve their safety standards by finding out how things are done in the UK. As with any training, delegate involvement is essential, regardless of where you are.
But it's essential not to fall into the trap of saying that one system is better than another. The UK, US or Western Europe may not always necessarily be the best - there will be health and safety practices in some countries that may be better. Countries have different types of standards, in the UK we have a goal setting approach, while some countries have very prescriptive legislation
In one country where I train, for example, cranes follow the UK pattern of proof testing before use and inspection every year. But, they must also be retested every three years to a laid down procedure.
I find that many delegates want to do health and safety training, but often find that the UK-based training packages are not always totally relevant to them, particularly because of the references to UK law.
Delegates often want to do IOSH training, like Managing safely, because they want accreditation from IOSH, which is a well recognised body. So it's imperative for me to be able to tailor the course to the audience - ensuring companies and delegates get what they need from the course. Through IOSH's tailored course approvals service, I've been able to do that, ensuring that I'm able to deliver training that is relevant to the delegates needs and hopefully helping the delegates to improve safety performance.
IOSH's tailored course approvals service
If, like John, you need health and safety training for a particular audience, but there isn't any out there that matches your needs, then IOSH's tailored course approvals service could help.
As well as accrediting courses like Managing safely and Working safely, experts at IOSH can help trainers to create their own tailor-made course. Because Managing safely, for instance, is based on British standards, if you are a trainer in Saudi Arabia, you might find the British course is not exactly what you're looking for.
IOSH's Course Approval team can help you to develop your own material, submit it for approval and, if successful, have it licensed by IOSH under its Health and Safety Training banner. That means you could, in theory, get a health and safety training course you've developed that's relevant to your audience wherever they are in the world.
And it is not as difficult as it sounds. Standard syllabuses from a range of courses can be used to 'mix and match' modules creating the right course for the audience. Or simply take some established modules and develop new ones to create the course that is needed.
What do you do and how does it work?
To gain approval for a tailored course, trainers must first ask for an application pack which lists all the criteria needed by the approval officers, and also many useful guidelines to help put the course together.
Once the material is received, IOSH course approval officers will read the contents and thoroughly research the subject to make sure everything is correct. They will also check the membership of the trainer to make sure he or she is qualified to deliver the course, and decide on an appropriate fee for the service.
The officers then compile a report, noting any corrections or alterations that need to be made, and once these are complete, the course is passed to the training department for a licence to be issued. Depending on the work involved, courses can be approved and licensed within four weeks at the most.
Once a course is approved, IOSH may ask for permission to produce a syllabus from the work submitted so that other trainers can deliver it, should the demand warrant it. Officers stress, however, that the trainer's own work always remains confidential.<
IOSH is the Chartered body for health and safety professionals. With more than 35,000 members in 85 countries, we're the world's biggest professional health and safety organisation.
We set standards, and support, develop and connect our members with resources, guidance, events and training. We're the voice of the profession, and campaign on issues that affect millions of working people.
IOSH was founded in 1945 and is a registered charity with international NGO status.
For a full listing of tailored training courses and to find our more about our tailored courses and related services then please contact Linda Stanley call +44 (0) 116 257 3138 or Ethne D'Arcy +44 (0) 116 257 3132.M
Published: 01st Aug 2009 in Health and Safety Middle East