Human factors: Intelligent customer capability 

Intelligent Customer Capability can be defined as "The capability of the organisation to have a clear understanding and knowledge of the product or service being supplied".

Many organisations have a mixture of core activities - for which they use their own competent staff - and contracted-out activities. The 'Intelligent Customer' principle mainly relates to a capability required of organisations when using contractors. The extent of the required capability should be commensurate with the hazard and the size of the organisation. Key to both organisational 'core competences' and 'intelligent customer' capability is the retention of 'corporate memory'. This topic therefore has clear links to staff turnover, succession planning, competence, communications and 'lessons learned' from events.

Example: if an organisation employs the services of a contractor to undertake safety analyses, they must be able to ensure that the contractor is suitably qualified for the work, an appropriate methodology is used, and be able to ask appropriate questions. The organisation should have sufficient knowledge to understand the limitations and implications of the analysis (eg to its safety case/report) and be able to lead the presentation of the safety arguments to the Regulator. However the organisation need not have the depth of knowledge required to undertake the detailed analysis.

This topic has clear links to outsourcing and contractorisation. For example:

  • The need to ensure that you retain oversight and co-ordination of all outsourced activities (eg arrangements to ensure that inspection, testing and maintenance of all, relevant safety-critical equipment is carried out as scheduled);
  • The need for whole-system functionality checks, when work on different safety-critical elements is contracted out to a range of different specialists (eg end-to-end testing from interface to hardware on plant).

Further guidance

Technical Assessment Guide: Licensee use of contractors and intelligent customer capability
This document considers assessment of the technical and safety assessment capabilities in the context of the intelligent user of technical services, safety advice, safety information and assessment. Although produced for the nuclear industry, this guidance contains useful principles for any organisation, particularly major hazard industries.

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