Is your H&S advisor KEPT?

Health and safety is about competence, knowledge and understanding – and accidents are usually the result of a failure somewhere in one of those areas. Anyone can prove competence on paper.

The rule of thumb for a competent safety practitioner (or in fact any other competent person in a particular area) is that they are KEPT:

  • Knowledge – they know their area of expertise thoroughly.
  • Experience – they have experience of the business situations on which they are giving advice and can apply that and transfer their experience into similar and variable circumstances.
  • Personal attributes – they are able to understand the employer’s situation, can communicate effectively, take a positive approach to creating solutions, are easy to deal with and area aware of their limitations.
  • Training – relevant training is ongoing so that they are appropriately qualified, keep up to date with legislation, skills, knowledge and regularly refresh their existing knowledge and skills.
  • Each of these has a negative side too.

    Knowledge can be learned from a book – but applying it requires analysis and it depends on whether you have learned the right information or not! As the saying goes ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!’ You can be taught the wrong way. Where you get your knowledge from makes a big difference. Knowledge alone does not equal competence!

    Experience – as we said in the last blog – is open to question too. People claim 10 years of experience in a profession or skill – but do they learn from their experience over the years or are they just repeating the same activities over and over again? ‘Old hands’ are not always flexible and willing to see and work with the actual situation; there is a tendency to ‘go by the book’, which is not always the best thing for the client.

    Does your practitioner or advisor have good personal attributes? More to the point do they have entrepreneurial sense – or do you want a consultant who will act as another enforcement officer? A good advisor will be capable, have an attitude that promotes good business practices that are practical for your organisation and will be interested in making your business work effectively – not only in ‘sticking to the rules no matter what’.

    Training does not always take place in a training room and qualifications don’t always mean understanding. Training depends on the trainer, the training method and the practical application of the learning.

    When you engage a safety practitioner you take a risk – one of many you’ll take in your business – safety is also about risk, so think carefully of the issues relating to KEPT – and choose someone who will keep your organisation running smoothly, not just someone who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the rules!