Human factors: Training & Competence
Why is competence important?
This can be defined as the ability to undertake responsibilities and perform activities to a recognised standard on a regular basis. It is a combination of skills, experience and knowledge. The inadequate management of competence has not only contributed to disasters such as Esso Longford and BP Texas City, but also to fatalities, personal injuries and ill health.
Key principles in competence
- Competence assurance should be linked to key responsibilities, activities and tasks identified in risk assessments.
- Competency assurance systems should aim to establish and maintain competency for all those involved in safety-related work, including managers. This is particularly important in the management and prevention of major accidents.
- Training is an important component of establishing competency but is not sufficient on its own. For example, consolidation of knowledge and skills through practice is a key part of developing competency.
- Competence assurance systems should take account of foreseeable work and operating conditions - including infrequent and complex activities, emergency situations and upsets, maintenance etc.
- Training and competence assessment methods should be appropriate to the hazard profile of the tasks being undertaken. For example, competency assurance systems for safety critical tasks should be more robust.
- ‘On-the-job’ training should be structured and linked to risk assessments and associated control measures including procedures. In safety critical environments, on-the-job training should be supported by other forms of training where appropriate e.g. classroom training, simulation.
- Training should be validated (‘Did it deliver what it was supposed to?’), and evaluated (‘Is this the right kind of training for our needs?’) and recorded.
- There should be refresher training for infrequent, complex or safety critical tasks and this may include appropriate reassessment.
- Vocational qualifications should include site-specific aspects and link appropriately to the hazards and risks in your workplace.
- Aim to achieve a suitable balance between competence and supervision.
- Careful consideration should be given to the potential consequences of outsourcing of safety-related work. Companies must take steps to ensure that contractors are competent to carry out health and safety-related work. Companies should seek to retain intelligent customer capability to ensure that they can appropriately manage and oversee the work.
More information on competence
- Human factors briefing note no. 2 - Competence
Includes case studies and a self-assessment checklist for your workplace.
- Extract from inspectors human factors toolkit - Core topic 1: Competence assurance
Useful for checking your own competency system.
Developing and Maintaining Staff Competence
Second edition published by the Office of Rail and Road, 2007 ISBN 07176 1732 7 (first published by the Health and Safety Executive, 2002)
The guidance is primarily aimed at those responsible for managing, controlling and assessing the competence of individuals and teams in the railway industries. However, this guidance is fully applicable to other industries, including high hazard industries. It describes the principles and factors that should be considered to improve existing competence management systems, and set up and implement new systems.
- Competence assessment for the hazardous industries.
Research Report 086 (2003). Includes guidance and questions for self assessment of your training and competency arrangements.
- Improving maintenance – a guide to reducing human error (2000)
Pages 40 to 42 discuss competency assurance.
- Successful health and safety management, HSG65 (1997)
ISBN 0717612767, HSE Books. Provides guidance for directors, managers, health and safety professionals and employee representatives who want to improve health and safety in their organisations. Pages 26 to 32 discuss competency assurance.
- Study group on human factors: first report on training and related matters ACSNI, ISBN 0 11 885543, HMSO 1990, now via HSE Books.
- Optimising hazard management by workforce engagement and supervision
(Research Report 637). Discusses the balance between competence and supervision, and increased workforce involvement.
- The selection and training of offshore installation managers for crisis management. Offshore Technology Report OTH 92 374.
This project investigated the selection and training of Offshore Installation Managers (OIMs) with particular reference to their ability to take command during an emergency.
- Health and Safety Training: guidelines for the waste management and recycling training
First published 08/07. Contains a section on general training requirements, applicable to wider industry.
- Factoring the human into safety: Translating research into practice. Volume 3 - Crew Resource Management Training for Offshore Operations, RR061 (2003).
The aim of this work was to design and evaluate a form of human factors training called Crew Resource Management (CRM) which is intended to improve safety, productivity, and to reduce down time on offshore installations.
- Nuclear Directorate - Technical Assessment Guide: Licensee use of contractors and intelligent customer capability.
Contractorisation is the process of downsizing, restructuring or other initiatives to enable contractors to be used to replace or augment company staff in performing activities.
- Managing competence for safety-related systems, issued by the Health and Safety Executive, the Institution of Engineering Technology and the British Computer Society, 2007
The purpose of this guidance is to help companies manage the competence of their staff who are involved with the functional safety of electronic safety-related systems for protection or control (e.g. fly-by-wire in aircraft, shutdown systems in the petrochemical industry and offshore, and safeguarding arrangements for machinery and industrial automation).