Like it or not, organisations have a duty to provide health and safety training. But it could involve much more than you think.
Businesses and staff alike may emit a collective groan when it comes to health and safety (H&S) training, but it is a legal requirement that both must embrace.
Changing legislation can make this an onerous task for employers – especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), says Andrew Monro, a learning consultant at training firm Hemsley Fraser. He says health and safety training is often seen as a bureaucratic, but necessary, chore that gets in the way of day-to-day business activities.
But the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act on 6 April 2008 will bring the issue of effective health and safety training into focus. Under this recently enacted legislation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be able to prosecute “companies and other organisations where there has been a gross failing, throughout the organisation, in the management of health and safety with fatal consequences.”
When it comes to health and safety, there is a common misconception that serious incidents only take place in workplaces where manual working is prevalent, says Rupert Salter, consultant for Capita Learning and Development.
Safety regulations in factories or heavy construction are usually taken very seriously, with risk management practices often exemplary. But, when it comes to offices, Salter says there tends to be a more complacent attitude to health and safety as risks are seemingly less apparent.
When conducting an assessment of an individual’s training needs, learning and development (L&D) departments should look at the person’s job specification, assess their normal day-to-day activities, and speak to a H&S professional.
“By looking at a job specification, managers should get details of potential hazards and risks,” says Salter.
“And by looking at day-to-day activities they’ll get a better idea of what the individual does – which should show risks that might not be immediately apparent by just looking at a job specification. For example, a person may spend a lot of time on the road, which may have only recently become part of their job, and subsequently they need to be aware of road health and safety. Managers should then speak to an health and safety professional, to ensure that they are up to date on health and safety policy, and to ensure that they haven’t missed any potential hazards or risks.”
Anne Gibbs, partner at training provider Ostas, which has worked with Ford, The National Trust and Nestlé, as well as the HSE itself, says effective health and safety training should involve face-to-face interaction, syndicate exercises and case studies.
While online training is also available, most training experts believe that face-to-face learning delivers the most effective transfer of knowledge. However, Monro says Hemsley Fraser is currently considering adding online and blended courses to its health and safety line-up.
For Salter, the classroom is the best place to start – as it enables the theory to be covered. “This can be followed by a video demonstrating how the theory can be put into practice,” he says. “If the workshop is taking place at the client’s workplace, then a hazard-spotting exercise could also be carried out during a group walk, too.”
While some businesses still choose to conduct health and safety training in-house, there has been a shift towards outsourcing – particularly in corporate environments.
“In offices there is very rarely a qualified health and safety officer, so all their health and safety training must be outsourced,” explains Salter. “However, this doesn’t apply to all environments. Due to the high-risk nature of the jobs being carried out in the manual labour sector – ie, in factories, chemical plants, construction sites and the like – it would be far more unlikely for health and safety to be outsourced as a specialist would be on-site at all times.”
But while limited time and resources play a part in the decision to go outside, Monro says many companies also believe that third-party providers tend to have more impact and credibility with the workforce. Gibbs says external consultants also bring different experiences to the training room.
For L&D, outsourcing health and safety training means they could be involved in designing the programme.
“We tailor the course to client’s individual needs,” says Salter. “Before a workshop, the client is contacted either by phone, e-mail or personally, and their individual needs are discussed. The course is then built around that.”
Case study: Safety Passport Alliance
The Safety Passport Alliance (SPA) recently launched an accreditation scheme for the construction industry.
SPA, which has pioneered health and safety (H&S) accreditation across a number of industry sectors, now offers a one-day training course for the construction industry.
The initiative stems from the government’s increasing concern over rising accident figures in the housebuilding, refurbishment and construction industries.
“Unfortunately, the take-up of passports in the sector has not been as high as in other sectors, partly because the industry itself has been reluctant to accept a two-day training course,” says SPA managing director, Ray Gibbs. “To overcome this barrier, we developed a one-day course that considerably enhances H&S knowledge when compared with the 40-minute Construction Skills Certification Scheme.”
The SPA course includes modules on organising for safety, workplace safety, tools, plant and machinery, and health and hygiene. Successful delegates receive a tamper-proof photo ‘passport’ card which allows them to work at multiple sites. SPA says this makes it a useful tool for contractors and other staff who work at multiple sites.
IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) and Nebosh (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) courses are the most widely-recognised accreditations in the health and safety field.
Hemsley Fraser says its most popular courses are the IOSH Managing Safely and the Health and Safety at Work programme – an intensive one-day course (£499 excluding VAT per head) that provides delegates with an overview of health and safety (H&S) issues and current legislation.
The course is for staff responsible for H&S at work – or those who need to increase their awareness of it.
Managing Safely is suitable for those required to manage safely and effectively in compliance with both their organisation’s policy and H&S best practice.
It culminates in an IOSH Managing Safely Certificate for those who successfully complete the written and practical assessments. The course includes: identifying hazards assessing and controlling risks investigating accidents and incidents measuring and reviewing performance and environmental protection. The four-day course costs £1,199 per person (excluding VAT).
IOSH also offers a programme entitled Directing Safely for senior business leaders.
Nebosh offers a National General Certificate via a 10-day course that also leads to IOSH technician status. The three-unit programme includes: the management of health and safety identifying and controlling hazards practical application and costs £1,295 per person, plus the necessary Nebosh registration fees.
Along with the Nebosh certification and other courses, there is also big demand for CCNSG (Client Contractor National Safety Group) and SPA safety passports (see case study above).
CCNSG is a two-day course containing four modules: safe behaviour at work a safe place of work safe systems of work safety problems and safe solutions. Accredited by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board, it costs £125 per person (excluding VAT) plus the passport fees.
The SPA passport course comprises a core day and sector-specific day. The core day consists of six modules: organising for safety the workplace, plant and machinery health procedures and the environment.
It costs £145 per person (excluding VAT) plus registration and passport fees.
Capita Learning and Development’s leading course is Health and Safety in the Workplace – a general overview designed for facilitates managers or office managers. The course covers all the ‘need to know’ HSE regulations for those in management positions and enables managers to gain a clearer understanding of key legal requirements, their responsibilities in managing H&S, and the best methods to help ensure their H&S policy is being correctly managed, as well as risk assessments. The open course costs £495 (excluding VAT) per person a one-day on-site workshop for 12 delegates is also available for £1,250-£1450 (plus expenses).