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We are living in a knowledge economy. The 21st century will be the age of the mind, just as the nineteenth was the age of the machine. The digital revolution is sweeping the globe, expanding at an exponential rate. What might have once taken twenty years may now well happen in twelve months – or less.
Messages can be sent around the world virtually simultaneously via the internet and e-mail and it is only going to get faster. Who wants to wait a day to read about the rich and famous when they can read the thoughts of the rich and famous on their blogs almost immediately? In 1597, Francis Bacon coined the famous phrase ‘Knowledge is Power’. Today, that apothegm could not be more true. Anyone who wishes to gain knowledge must embrace the fact that knowledge requires constant updating, otherwise it rapidly becomes outdated and left behind.
There is a race afoot, a race where the winner takes all and everyone else comes a very poor second indeed. It is the race for knowledge, for improving oneself by strengthening one’s qualifications. In a knowledge economy, the surest way of quantifying the lubricant of that economy is to grade and organise it, and that is what we call qualification, a guarantee of educational quality. And how are qualifications obtained?
If one does not move forward, one is not merely standing still, one is moving backward, eventually to be left behind. The race is a merciless one, and no-one stops to help the laggards. To the victor, the spoils and those spoils knowledge requires constant updating 33 are rich indeed. There are many benefits that arise from possessing accredited training, the main focus being the advantage of earning a higher wage working in a professional environment with a recognised title and status.
It is estimated that on average, health and safety professionals who hold accredited qualifications can expect an 8-10% increase in salary. And in a working environment where jobs – and particularly good jobs – are increasingly at a premium, anything that gives an aspiring worker an edge is to be welcomed.
What is true for the worker is all the more true for the company. The intellectual capacity of a workforce is only as good as the will to maintain and improve it. Today’s economy, where every inch of spare fat has been shaved off company profiles leaves little room for material improvement. Only those companies who can make the best use of the most important resource of all – their people – deserve to thrive and will do so.
Sure in the knowledge that if they do not train, then others will do so and overtake them, the most successful and innovative companies are busy developing their human resources. We began by hammering home the incredible pace of change in today’s world. This change has also seen a revolution in the way that training is carried out. The previous generation relates training to sitting in a seminar room, wearing name labels and building towers out of cardboard boxes. Although this is only a few years old, that is a lifetime in the rapidly-evolving world of training and development.
No-one is going to put on the brakes just because people don’t like change. Pause and you will be overtaken. The baby boomers have been replaced by the millennials, for whom the internet, e-mails, blogs and digital technology is not some new fad but commonplace, along with the mental attitude that goes with it. And training techniques have had to change to accommodate this generational shift.
Training usually falls into three categories:
• Helping people to learn how to do something
• Informing people of what they should or should not do
• The provision of information to people to improve their understanding
Note that training centres around people; this is the focus as it should be. The best training is learner-centred, giving the trainee the reassurance that he or she is the centre of the process, rather than just a number in an equation concocted by someone paying lipservice to a benchmarked process devoid of meaning or significance. Whilst classroom-based training is the image most fixed in people’s minds, the huge potential of the internet is waiting to be reaped by those with the vision to do so. This is the world of E-learning.
E-learning is fast becoming a central component of workplace learning in companies with the vision and imagination to make the best use of it. A recent survey of one hundred and forty organisations right across the economy, from construction to healthcare found that forty percent planned to increase the proportion of their training budgets spent on e-learning in the next year. The survey also found that seventy-two percent of those businesses who responded used e-learning as part of their training, with seventy-one percent recommending it to other organisations.
Key reasons for implementing e-learning are to increase staff knowledge, give online access to quality training materials, reduce training costs, both in time and money, and to ensure consistency and, most importantly, quality of training.
A close examination of the issue seems to suggest that there is no real difference in outcome between classroom-based training and e-learning. In fact, e-learning offers significant advantages, such as convenience of venue and occasion, consistency, flexible access, support from other learners on-line and the ability to monitor the learning process to ensure that everyone is benefiting from it. E-learning is in effect another method of distance learning. E-learning does however overcome some of the drawbacks of traditional distance learning by creating virtual communities or forums where learners or students can meet to discuss topics. This emulates some of the benefits of classroom training, although it still requires the learners to remain motivated.
Whilst the costs of training can seem to some considerable, it should be remembered that the costs of not training can be even higher, both in financial and health terms. A brief perusal of the records of legal cases against companies who thought that Health and Safety training was a luxury that they could not – or would not – pay for, should indicate the level of financial punishment that can be levied by the courts.
The best example of the steady route to professional competence is the people who have already achieved it. The power of training to transform lives – and in some instances, whole families or even communities – is massive and not to be underestimated. As we have already seen, the benefits of training and increasing qualifications are tangible; status, income, professional achievement.
Some people have started out from a very humble origin, labouring on building sites, but because they had the vision and application to become qualified, they have seen their career improve year on year; the International General Certificate and then the NEBOSH International Diploma have been stepping stones to a managerial position, multiplying their salaries tenfold, something that could not possibly have happened without training.
There are many bodies associated with training and qualification. All have slightly different remits and offer slightly different qualifications but the progression towards professional competence is consistent, beginning at certificate level, progressing to diploma and finally the graduate and postgraduate qualifications. Some examples of qualifications are as follows:
IOSH Managing Safely – those workers who have additional responsibilities for the safety of others will find that this qualification is essential to acquire.
NEBOSH National General Certificate, International General Certificate, Construction Certificate, Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management – all of these are aimed at those who have health and safety responsibilities as a large part of their work or who work as a member of a large team.
Those who have health and safety responsibilities or are managing the health and safety function will need to look at a level 4 programme, such as the NVQ in Occupational Health and Safety practice.
Those who are looking to become fulltime H&S practitioners and have strategic management responsibility for the health and safety function should be looking at the NVQ Level 5 in occupational H&S practice.
The NEBOSH National / International Diploma is aimed at those intending to become full-time Health and Safety practitioners. It is a demanding course that requires good written English.
An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) is a qualification that recognises someone’s competence (the skills, knowledge and understanding they have in a work situation). NVQ’s are based on national occupational standards. These standards describe the level and breadth of performance that is expected of anyone working in the sector that the standards cover. The OCR (Oxford and Cambridge RSA Examinations) health and safety NVQ’s are work-oriented and are suitable for those who have real work experience.
They are open to candidates of any age, or gender and there are no entry barriers on grounds of race, creed or previous academic attainment or learning. Candidates are expected to have sufficient standards of communication and numeracy skills to carry out the work described in the standards.
These qualifications are designed to reflect the work of candidates with health and safety responsibilities. They recognise the candidate’s competence in the area of Health and Safety practice to national standards.
The standards not only provide the way towards a better practical understanding of health and safety practice but also a benchmark for good practice in this field. Both employers and practitioners can use these qualifications to improve health and safety practice within their organisation. This can be achieved by reviewing current practice against the standards, planning for improvement at individual and organisational levels, and then implementing the appropriate policies for better health and safety. The results will be seen in:
• Improved organisational image
• Safer working conditions
• Increased staff motivation and morale
• Raised standards of work
This ‘level playing field’ approach now being recommended by the IOSH Council accepts that qualifications can be obtained by different methods and also accepts that there can be strengths and (alleged) weaknesses in the different approaches . – Quote from IOSH
So for academic qualifications such as those from the universities and NEBOSH there is a requirement to demonstrate the development of workplace skills using the knowledge acquired during the study, whilst for those with an NVQ who have demonstrated skills in the workplace there is a requirement to show the broad spread of knowledge (via an open exam), that is required of an OSH practitioner that may not have been shown in the NVQ itself because of lack of opportunity.
Both groups being required to discuss all the elements of competence – knowledge, skills and experience with an interview panel made up of experienced safety practitioners. Ultimately this means that the possession of ‘Chartered Membership’, subject to Privy Council approval of course, will distinguish a competent safety practitioner. Hopefully the argument regarding initial qualifications will then become a
thing of the past as it will be recognised that all of them are good and which one has been selected has been a matter of personal choice.
From personal experience and having assisted colleagues through both Diploma and NVQ. the NVQ has a more “Hands on” element and would be preferred by those who are not comfortable with exams. The Diploma would be preferred with those who are comfortable with an exam setting. – Quote from an Assessor/tutor
NVQs are work-related, competence based qualifications which reflect the skills and knowledge needed to carry out a job effectively and represent national standards recognised by employers. They indicate that you actually have the capability to undertake a particular role and not that you merely know how to do it in theory. NEBOSH qualifications are examination and assignment based and are also recognised and respected by employers in all sectors of the economy. – Quote from a candidate – when asked to compare the two routes
This is the body that administers the qualifications relating to food safety, health and safety and environmental health.
Environmental health is the branch of public health that is concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment may affect human health. Environmental health is defined by the World Health Organisation as:
Those aspects of human health and disease that are determined by factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing and controlling factors in the environment that can potentially affect health.
There are four levels of qualification relating to this most important of areas.
Level One is aimed at new starters in the workplace, requiring a simple training course in a subject to keep them and their colleagues safe, when starting work or as part of their induction.
Level Two is for those in the workplace who participate in activities related to the subject area. It equates to the foundation or basic qualification.
Level Three is intended for those in the workplace who require safety training in activities related to the subject area and who have a related supervisory role.
Level Four is aimed at those who participate in activities related to the subject area and who have moved into a management and/or training role.
Workplace injuries and work-related illhealth costs employers an estimated £2.5 billion every year. Added to the monetary cost of these incidents, there is the psychological effect on those to whom the incidents occur and those who witness them and view them as evidence of the disregard for health and safety of those in authority. More than just the victims suffer when an accident or incident occurs. Without doubt, one of the best ways to reduce these costs is to work to build a strong Health and Safety culture, and this can be achieved through effective training.
Effective training permits employees to carry out their work free from risk of colleague-inflicted injury. It gives them the knowledge to manage health and safety effectively and ensures that they and their employer comply with regulations designed to protect the welfare of employees, the flouting of which can have grave consequences.
Health and safety training is a key part of working towards reducing accidents and ill-health at work. Training will ensure that staff understand company procedures, are aware of workplace dangers, know how best to respond in dangerous situations and develop a positive attitude to safety at work. Training works as a way to increase the value of the organisation in which it takes place. It enhances and adds value to a resource that the company already has, rather than obliging it to extrosource. It also increases the level of commitment of the employees who receive it, since they have tangible evidence that they matter enough to the company for a training investment to take place. Boosting self-esteem, ambition, achievement and loyalty are surely good motivators to consider training not only desirable but also essential if a company is to maximise its potential and continue to succeed.
There cannot be much better benefits than these.
Published: 10th Nov 2009 in Health and Safety Middle East
David Murray BA
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