We too often settle for the easy option with health and safety competence assessment.  Health and safety courses often finish with a short term multiple-choice memory test.  Modest pass marks imply that it’s acceptable to have gaps in your health and safety knowledge.  But what if those gaps are the more difficult but most important things for ensuring high levels of safety?  It should be no surprise if safety conversations then reveal a lack of knowledge!

More is done by way of training and assessment where there is a more immediate risk of danger.  The most obvious examples of this include driving, operating high hazard heavy equipment and trade skills such as installing gas systems and working with asbestos.  In this case, competence is assessed by observed demonstration of skills, often coupled by applied knowledge testing using realistic scenarios.  The outcome is certification or licensing for the skill set involved.  In some cases we also require periodic refresher training and re-assessment.

Consider also the level of training and assessment we expect of people into whose hands we trust our lives when we travel by train or plane, or when we submit ourselves to the surgeon’s knife?  Surely only systematically proven competence in all aspects of the job is acceptable?

But what if what you are “operating” isn’t equipment, but a high hazard site?  Or a large complex organisation undertaking multiple complex hazardous activities?  What if the “surgery” is making changes to accountability structures or management systems and process, that can impact a whole organisation’s health and safety competence?  It is absolutely clear that skilful safety leadership is essential, particularly given that it operates over longer time scales than equipment operators’ actions.  Surely only systematically proven competence in all aspects of the job is acceptable!

Yet in many organisations what is done for these “operators” of organisations falls far short of what is required of, for example, fork lift truck drivers.  In follow up calls to safety leadership courses over the past five years, I have encountered only one organisation with a challenging safety management assessment process.  Six months after appointment new chemical plant managers were required to demonstrate to a panel of experts that they had gained sufficient working knowledge of their plant’s hazards, control measures and risk management processes.  Perhaps a process like this is something your organisation should be considering?

Leaders are expected to be role models.  One aspect of this should be willingness to have their competence in safety management and leadership assessed.

The new NEBOSH Health and Safety Leadership Certificate provides a step in the right direction.  The assessment process requires course participants to reflect on what they personally do and how effective it is for five important safety leadership values.  They are then required to identify their most important need for improvement and draft an action plan with success criteria.  Clearly, this process will be most powerful if it is not just done to gain the certificate, but there is a clear expectation that it will be followed up after the training.

We as course tutors are required to provide constructive feedback to each candidate.  Our aim is that this feedback provides coaching advice that will help our course participants become more knowledgeable and capable safety leaders.

It’s not just the course participants that are assessed.  NEBOSH moderates all new training providers.  I have had that pleasure of waiting for the moderation results for Hastam’s first NEBOSH HSL course.  Thankfully, the feedback was as follows: “A good standard of marking was evidenced throughout this cohort.  Considerable tutor feedback has been given for each section of each assessment which is both constructive and commendable.”

Hastam is offering the NEBOSH HSL Certificate as both open course dates and in-house courses.  In fact, we have an open course planned for 5th December in Maidstone, Kent.  Please contact us if you are interested in this particular course or the course in general, or if you think there may be enough interest in this course in your region to run an open course there.  We look forward to hearing from you

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