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Why is health and safety training important?

Over 200 people are killed each year in accidents at work and over one million people are injured. Over two million suffer illnesses caused by, or made worse by, their work. But did you know that forestry is one of the most dangerous industries, and workers are 6 times more likely to be killed at work than a construction worker? That is not good odds. So, preventing accidents and ill health caused by work should be a key priority for everyone at work. As the owner or manager of a forestry contracting business you know that competent employees are valuable. Your business probably depends on them.

Providing health & safety information and training helps you to:

Effective training:

Don’t forget that your insurance doesn’t cover all losses. Damaged products, lost production and demotivated staff can all result.

The law requires that you provide whatever information, instruction and training is needed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health & safety of your employees.

What is training?

Training means helping people to learn how to do something, telling people what they should or (often as important) should not do, or simply giving them information. Training isn’t just about formal ‘classroom’ courses and obtaining ‘tickets’ (certificates) to work.

Within the forestry industry, there are growing concerns about the level of competence and high expectations of newly trained/qualified operators. What makes someone more employable and valued is their experience gained through on the job training & consolidation, and non formal training in the form of ‘continuous professional development’ (CPD).

In forestry, great importance is placed on lifelong learning. Without this learning, the knowledge gained from innovation and work experience will not spread throughout your industry. General working experience is recognised as valuable evidence of workers employability. To help demonstrate this, the evidence needs to be recorded. Currently, there is no national scheme in treework for recognising or recording this. In the 21st century, CPD is vitally important to your employees, your business and your client. If CPD is managed effectively then your forest contracting business benefits from increased profitability and competitiveness. You have a more efficient & flexible workforce and are able to better utilise your staff resources.

Your members of staff become more motivated, remain loyal and committed. Management of CPD allows you, the forestry contractor, to attract, recruit & retain the best people. By demonstrating workforce competence your business is given direction and an enhanced image. This is not just about health and safety. Increasingly, clients are demanding evidence of ability to undertake contracts to a suitable quality, and businesses have been shown to benefit from being able to provide this information, by winning contracts over other companies.

Within forestry contracting, CPD is seen as the systematic maintenance, improvement & broadening of professional forestry knowledge. Greater understanding and improved skills lead to the development of personal qualities deemed necessary to undertake professional and technical duties, throughout a foresters working life.. Keeping up to date with new technical & business related subjects in forestry contracting is important and it’s about being even better at what you do in the forest.

Why manage CPD you might ask?

Well, amongst other things, it’s good for business. What counts for CPD, is any subject that you think is relevant to your personal development. A plethora of subjects count towards CPD including courses, seminars, conferences, workshops, full and part time study and other training, etc . However, CPD needs planning. The individual needs to look at his/her weaknesses for example in core skills - what you do well and in a lack of skills, what needs to be improved. The individual also needs to look at opportunities and threats including new trends, any obstacles and changing roles.

Of course, all individuals will also learn, increase their knowledge and skills simply by doing their job. In other words, gaining experience. This is also part of CPD. The fresh-faced new employee with his recently - gained certificates of competence will not usually be able to equal the productivity of a more experienced operator but with support and supervision from his colleagues he will pick things up every day. Be aware, though, that everyone brings something to the process: He might be slow but he might also have learnt a few techniques that make life easier – and safer. Equally, the more experienced, senior colleague may be quick but may also have picked up a few bad habits along the way. This type of give-and-take has been going on in the workplace for ever and is just as valuable now as it has ever been.

What we don’t have in our current structure of training and employment in tree work is any way to acknowledge these gains and achievements that are happening to individuals every day.

Planning is critical for success. Priorities should be detailed and the skills gap identified. Development objectives should be specifically set and the identification of competency levels is key. Support in forestry is available, and this should be assessed, whilst the cost & time implications must be factored in, also. The benefit of added value to your business and staff must be set against a realistic time frame. We are all individuals and therefore different. Each person possesses a different preferred learning style. These range from innovative and analytical to common sense and dynamic. Within CPD also, a period of reflection is important in knowing, if you, the individual forester have achieved your objectives.

CPD could also be used in forming a nationally recognised, auditable and credible structure to acknowledge individual operators training, certification and career progression, a register of Tree Work Operatives. This scheme would have a large advantage if it could be made to happen, but cost would be the main barrier to progress. In relation to career progression under a national scheme, chain saw and forest machine operators could take their transferable skills (if the need arises) into other industry sectors such as construction, without the need for duplication of training, assessment or certification.

2013-02-25