Competence and the quarry manager
The British health and safety landscape is peppered with numerous terms that have persistently defied definition. Competence is one of them, and yet being competent, especially in a quarry environment, is crucial. Francis Morrall, Deputy Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, explains the steps taken to remove ambiguity.
UK health and safety legislation is, for the most part, non prescriptive – in that it is up to the employer to decide how to comply. This means sometimes we have to guess what is meant by terms such as, ‘suitable and sufficient’ and ‘as far as is reasonably practical’. Definitions are difficult because what is ‘suitable and sufficient’ depends on the circumstances of the case. As a result, a number of definitions may be appropriate.
Despite these difficulties, decisions must be made if the heavy clay industry is to make progress in compliance. In respect of one term – competence – progress has been made, particularly where it refers to the competence of the quarry manager. The industry has turned its attention to this matter for a variety of very good reasons:
- Quarries are very dangerous places.
- Under the 1999 Quarries Regulations, there is a legal requirement, for the quarry manager to demonstrate competence.
- The current HSE strategy, The health and safety of Great Britain – be part of the solution identifies competence as one of its priorities.
As a result of the above, two years ago an ambitious programme of work was undertaken by the British Ceramic Confederation and IOM3. The result is a considered package of measures designed specifically to enable quarry managers in the heavy clay industry to demonstrate competence.
The first step in the process was the development of an acceptable definition, as follows:
Competence is the ability to apply knowledge, understanding, practical and thinking skills to achieve effective performance to the standards required in employment. This involves solving problems and being sufficiently flexible to meet changing demands.
The second step was the establishment of key principles underlying competence:
- Training/underpinning knowledge: making sure the responsible person has sufficient knowledge to carry out the job to the required standard.
- Assessment: reviewing this knowledge in an objective manner.
- Maintaining competency/ Continuous Professional Development: maintaining competence.
- Refresher/re-assessment: maintaining competence.
However, competence is an ongoing journey with a beginning, middle and end. The reasons for this are numerous. One important consideration is that work environments and people’s responsibilities change, meaning that maintaining competence is an ongoing process. This is where Continuous Professional Development (CPD) comes in.
In order to continuously demonstrate competence, quarry managers must undertake 35 hours of professional development each year, recorded and registered with IOM3. Training is via a three-day quarry manager’s course that has proved to be a resounding success within the industry, but successful completion of the course is only the start. Assessment is addressed by a rigorous process at the end of the course, and the whole process is overseen by the Joint Administrative Board (JAB), which is made up of representatives from industry and IOM3. The Institute is responsible for administering the course and monitoring the CPD, and the JAB is responsible for ensuring the annual audit is carried out professionally.
Although perhaps intimidating at the start, the process of proving competence is rightly rigorous and demanding – this is essential if it is to be credible in the eyes of the HSE, and therefore have true benefit for our industry. The hard rock quarry industry opted for an NVQ route to competence, an approach the heavy clay industry rejected in favour of the package described here.