Training is a Means – Not an End

| June 26, 2008

“Training” is the shorthand term most often used to describe the requirements set out in Section 4.4.2 of OHSAS 18001. In actuality, OHSAS 18001 does not require training. What OHSAS 18001 does require is either competency or awareness. Training is simply a means to an end and it is not the only way to get there.

What is the Difference Between Competence and Awareness?

Competence is the “demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills” (see 3.9.12 of ISO 9000-2000). Awareness is defined as “having knowledge.” Awareness is to know something; Competence is the ability to do something. For example, I “have knowledge” (awareness) concerning the installation of ceramic tile but I do not have the demonstrated skill or ability (competence) to do so (as demonstrated by a past home improvement project). I am, however, competent to install wood trim (again, as demonstrated by past performance).

Training to Competence

The primary focus of section 4.4.2 of OHSAS 18001 is competence — ensuring that individuals have the demonstrated skills and abilities needed to perform tasks that can impact occupational safety and health.

Training alone is often insufficient to establish competence. Most training programs do not include the needed demonstration of skills and abilities. Sign-in sheets documenting “seat time” in a training session do not verify competence. On the other hand, a training program is not needed if competence can be established in other ways — for example, by third-party certification or licensing.

So who needs to have demonstrated competence?

  • Individuals with responsibility for establishing, implementing & maintaining the OHSMS
  • OHSMS auditors
  • Individual workers, including contractors, performing dangerous tasks
  • Individuals responsible for workplace conditions that impact OH&S
  • Top management

What competence these individuals need will be the subject of future blog posts.

Developing Awareness

OHSAS 18001 Section 4.4.2 requires that workers have the following types of awareness:

  • The safety and health impacts of assigned tasks
  • What needs to be done to do these tasks safely
  • What will happen if the tasks are not done safely

Again, awareness does not require training. In fact, training may not be the most effective way of establishing awareness. Other methods — signs, e-mail notifications, hand-outs, etc. — are often more effective in communicating the information needed to establish awareness.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2008)

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Category: Training & Communication

Comments (1)

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  1. Sean says:

    Thea,
    Your discussion regarding training is an interesting and pertinent one. Not only do people too often use training as the solution, but far too often training, or lack there of, is identified as the “root cause”. A training program should be one tool in the tool box to assist EH&S folks with implementing a successful management system.
    Regards,
    Sean