Experience is no use without knowledge - and training may be flawlessly delivered but it’s no use if it is ten years out of date.
Knowledge without experience is equally bad - understanding how knowledge is applied in practical situations is almost as important as the knowledge itself. To help overcome the issues around safety in the Middle East, region-wide action has been taken by governments to encourage director-level responsibility for safety management.
The need for senior executive and board members to become actively involved in safety programmes has been underlined by worrying research: safety specialists in the UK found that the majority of serious safety failures in the Middle East (among other places) are caused by management failure.
The European Union says that the current 6,000 deaths in the region each year from work-related accidents are not only the result of carelessness, poor training and negligence but also ‘bad management and incompetence’.
Increasingly companies are ‘biting the bullet’ and sending senior staff on high level training courses. Recently more than 120 directors and managers from Al
Futtaim Carillion - a regional leader in design, construction, facilities management and maintenance services through joint ventures in Dubai, Oman and Abu Dhabi and Qatar - undertook the NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) National General Certificate. This is an extremely rigorous health and safety training course, yet more than 80% of attendees achieved a credit or a distinction.
Regional differences and requirements
Understanding the specific requirements of a particular region is the bedrock upon which all training must be built. Teaching someone in Bahrain in the same way you teach someone in Birmingham UK is a recipe for disaster. The training provider must understand the cultural and linguistic realities of the area they are working in, and the local practicalities of the industry.
As a safety organisation NEBOSH is beyond reproach. Formed in 1979 as an independent examining board and awarding body, their qualifications are recognised globally and are designed to meet health, safety, environmental and risk management training requirements for both the private and public sectors.
Management need to be able to demonstrate that their workers’ training is credible, realistic and applicable to the real world. A piece of paper from a university nobody has heard of will do them no good at all when they are facing a corporate manslaughter charge.
Developing a safety culture through training
The Middle East is what is described as a ‘relationship driven culture’, a place where personal relationships form the basis of most social and business interaction. Relationship driven cultures are usually collectivist in nature, where the interests, opinions and decisions of the group carry more weight than those of the individual.
Cultures of this kind often have highly developed hierarchical structures that trainers have to be able to work within to achieve the desired outcome, and this can act as a major stimulus in improving working practices.
In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, for example, the legislation on health and safety has been revised so it no longer has the ‘grey areas’ that affect the laws of other parts of the region. Dubai currently has around 8,000 construction sites and many tens of thousands of workers, most of them from outside the country.
In the light of changing world economic circumstances, a widely used theory for accident causation has been given a vital update - by adding a sixth domino to the classic Five Domino Theory.
The Sixth Domino
At a recent conference in Kish, Iran, British Safety Services unveiled a new theory on accident and incident causation, as initially set out in 1931 by HW Heinrich.
Heinrich’s traditional Five Domino Theory on accident causation is the standard model used by health and safety professionals as the basis of their understanding of the concept of accident causation.
The theory works on the basis that if a domino falls, it will only be a matter of time before it will knock down the others next to it. Thus, Heinrich said, is the way with workplace health and safety, where one undesirable event in the workplace will lead to others, and eventually to an accident.
This theory was further developed by Bird and Loftus in 1976, and includes the influence of management in accident causation. This modified version of the sequence was:
1. Lack of management control (leading to) 2. Basic causes (which give rise to) 3. Immediate causes 4. Accident/Incident 5. Loss/Injury
BSS recognised that in 2010 the domino theory should be updated, and therefore has now developed this process further, showing that there are in fact six stages of the accident causation process, rather than just the traditional five, placing ‘External Factors’ at the very beginning of the process.
External pressures provide a major impact on any business and should be considered from a health and safety perspective. Issues such as international recession, business environment, low prices and high competition, inheriting staff from previous contractors, and remote locations all need to be assessed in developing and implementing a health and safety strategy.
In today’s fast moving environment, especially with the current financial climate, BSS believe that recognising and managing ‘sixth domino’ is vital to improving performance and standards in the world of health and safety.
Key skills necessary
So if you are looking for training delivery what points should you be considering?
• Trainers with recognised qualifications and experience
• Internationally accredited training courses
• Regional understanding
As systems become more complex and work more challenging, the risks become greater and the importance of safe working practices increases proportionately.
The growth and globalisation of the economy means that the same high standard of training, monitoring and supervision of health and safety is needed everywhere.
In China, for example, the death toll in 2008 was 10.2% lower than the previous year, with 11.4 workers per 100,000 dying. In the US the figure is just 3.7.
The average European rate is 3.2 while the UK has an enviable figure of 0.7 per 100,000 workers. Professional training in health and safety for all levels of staff is highly effective in reducing accidents and incidents in the workplace.
When delivering training in theMiddle East, there are a number of specific challenges, including cultural and language issues that can impact on the ability of people to learn and understand.
With more than 40 languages, or variants of languages, routinely spoken in the region, getting the right message across by using the right words sometimes isn’t as easy as it might appear, as sometimes the same words mean different things in different cultures.
Tutors need training too
A core issue is social and cultural assumptions being made by the trainers. Poorly trained or inexperienced tutors can sometimes have a tacit expectation that certain levels of, for example, equipment and tools, will be routinely available.
They may believe that the management style will be the same as in their own country.
They don’t realise that people may not understand the context of illustrative or explanatory anecdotes.
If they are teaching in their own language they sometimes fail to check which kind of English their students understand - US or UK? For example, a torch in the UK is a portable light that runs on batteries - in the US it’s a piece of wood with fire at one end.
It is easy to make lazy assumptions about students understanding what they are being taught and not checking that they have fully grasped the subject. ‘Nod and smile’ has become the stereotypical response for people who don’t want to admit that they haven’t grasped what they are being told. Fear of looking foolish or receiving a poor mark will often prevent people from speaking up.
Misunderstandings are the basis of much comedy, but in safety training they can have very serious consequences. Properly developed training courses must be constructed with that in mind, and delivered in a sympathetic and professional manner.
Flexibility is one of the most important attributes of a good trainer. The awareness that doing something differently - as long as it is safe - is acceptable.
Until recently, for example, most scaffolding in China was made from bamboo. This was rather alarming to western eyes but was actually perfectly safe, even though it tended to rock alarmingly in a high wind.
That said, welders have been known to use a cardboard face shield and a pair of sunglasses instead of a welding mask, so there have been cases where different is also unsafe.
In recent years, however, the situation in China has improved dramatically, and such ad hoc arrangements are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
Benefits and added value of training
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 source-out.
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.
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.
Workplace injuries and work-related ill health costs employers dearly every year. In the UK alone the figure is about £18 billion just for injury accidents.
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 assisted by effective training.
What training is available?
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 Award in Health and Safety at Work
This new and exciting introductory qualification will help improve the safety culture in your organisation by equipping your workforce to identify and deal with hazards at work, helping to reduce accidents and achieving cost savings for the business.
The qualification is designed to meet the needs of an international audience. There is no content on UK or other National Law in the syllabus, but good trainers will align the content to relevant local requirements and practices.
There is a multiple choice assessment is available in English, with Arabic and Russian and Mandarin later on in 2011. Other languages may be possible soon.
This qualification is an ideal first step towards other higher level NEBOSH qualifications, including NEBOSH’s International General Certificate and National General Certificate.
NEBOSH National General Certificate, International General Certificate, Construction Certificate, International 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.
NEBOSH International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas Operational Safety
This new qualification is designed specifically for those with safety responsibilities in the oil and gas industry. It is the latest addition to the portfolio of globally recognised health, safety, environmental and risk management qualifications.
The qualification focuses on international standards and management systems, enabling students to effectively discharge workplace safety responsibilities both onshore and offshore.
The certificate also highlights the importance of process safety management in the oil and gas industry.
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 full time health and safety practitioners and have strategic management responsibility for the health and safety function should be looking at the NVQ Level 5 in occupational health and safety 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.
Health and safety NVQs
An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) is a qualification that recognises someone’s competence (the skills, knowledge and understanding they have in a work situation). NVQs are based on national occupational standards. Although such standards originally grew out of the UK, many international companies are now choosing to have their staff trained and assessed against such 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 NVQs 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 are 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
Training standards more important than ever
Maintaining high standards in health and safety training has never been more important. The annual worldwide work related death toll is a staggering 2.2 million people, according to a report prepared by the United Nations’ International Labour Office.
In the UK, on average, more than 200 people die at work each year, and across the EU more than 2,500 people lose their lives. The injury/illness figure - more than 450 million worldwide, or about one in eight of the working population - just doesn’t bear thinking about.
Pat McLoughlin, British Safety Services
British Safety Services (BSS) has nine regional offices in the UK, Qatar, Dubai, Yemen and China, with two most recent offices now open in Algeria and Libya. BSS also have representative offices in Kuwait and Pakistan, and are active in a total of 22 countries, with six more international projects in the pipeline before the end of 2011.
All courses that BSS present are accredited and examined to internationally accepted standards. BSS specialises in training in the Middle East, and experience and knowledge of local practices allows them to meet all the mandatory standards for the specific industries and local legislative structures.
It is because of this proven expertise that BSS was selected by NEBOSH to be one of the centres for two of the more recent courses - the NEBOSH award in Workplace Health and Safety and the NEBOSH International Certificate in Construction Health and Safety.
The courses are delivered by trainers with in excess of 15 years experience as practicing safety professionals. More than 30,000 candidates attend NEBOSH qualification courses annually, and they are offered by in excess of 400 course providers in more than 80 countries. Their qualifications are recognised by all the relevant international professional membership bodies including the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
For further information visit www.bssukhse.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: 01st May 2011 in Health and Safety Middle East