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Embarking on the right course

It is important to get the right balance between health and safety training and operational needs. By Bob Hussey

The important thing is ensuring that people take the right courses.

This process starts when recruiting. We use competency-based interviews and assessment centres where we find out exactly what knowledge, experience and certification the candidates have in health and safety, and most importantly where the gaps are.

New operatives are given a mentor when they go on site, which helps them in identifying general site hazards and makes them aware of expected behaviour.

The emphasis should always be on the guys on site managing safety – not just relying on safety professionals. Training must relate to the real world and staff must be made aware of what benefits they will get from it.

All safety training must be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it remains relevant. There has to be good support from the site management, which should be aware in advance that a person is going on a course and be able to plan for their absence.

Everyone who goes on a course should have the chance to give feedback and this feedback must be evaluated. It is also important to listen to the needs of supervisors and operatives.

Wilson James has different safety initiatives every year. They are based on problems our workers highlight and on industry-wide issues, such as slips, trips and falls, material handling or working at height.

We also use training outside the traditional classroom environment. Every year we run a competition where teams from all over the company compete in a series of tasks designed to assess their knowledge.

For the 2008 competition we wanted to highlight the new Corporate Manslaughter Act, so we created a mock court room where professional lawyers cross-examined one of our managers about a fictitious incident.

Site management teams should not only act as managers but also educators.

Bob Hussey is group general (H&S) manager at Wilson James.