HSE gets tough on competence
"SENIOR representatives of major aggregates companies, The Institute of Quarrying and EPIC Training were invited to a meeting at EPIC’s St Albans headquarters on 4 December 2003 at the request of Rob Pearce, HM Principal Inspector of Quarries."
"While the meeting heard about the HSE’s wide-ranging concerns about education and training in quarrying, the main issue was in relation to the industry’s urgent need to take steps to ensure that those with responsibility for site safety were able to demonstrate their occupational competence in the eyes of the law."
"It was explained how the HSE had been disappointed by the relatively low level of registrations for the NVQs in Health, Safety and Environment in Quarries, which provide a nationally recognized and industry-specific measure of a manager’s competence."
"The NVQs were originally developed by The Institute of Quarrying and were now available via EPIC Awarding Body at Levels 3, 4 and 5, intended for supervisors, quarry managers and senior operational managers respectively."
Since their launch in April 2001 all the major companies have been trialling pilot schemes to develop a core understanding of the process. The need for this initial learning period is generally held to be the main reason for the modest total of 63 registrations to date.
"Mr Pearce stated that ‘despite the significant improvement in the industry’s safety record in the past two-and-a-half years, incident levels were still unacceptably high and from April 2004 all quarry inspections would include a review of the site safety documentation and, in particular, the paperwork relating to the competence of the individuals detailed therein.’ (This was a reference to the obligations set out under Regulation 7. Health & Safety Document, Regulation 8. Management Structure, and Regulation 9. Training and Competence)."
"He went on to say that ‘in legal terms, the Quarries Regulations 1999 were unusual in specifying requirements for workplace competence and, as far as the HSE was concerned, the SHE NVQs were an obvious way of establishing such competence’. Also, it was made clear that while the HSE would prefer industry to regulate itself, if this were not forthcoming, then formal means of enforcement would be necessary. Furthermore, he indicated that the first prosecution of a quarrying company because of an accident associated with a lack of adequate competence was already under consideration."
"In response to questions about the timescale available for compliance, Mr Pearce explained that the HSE recognized it was not practical for every manager in the country to start an NVQ by April this year. Inspectors visiting quarries from that time onwards, however, would need to be satisfied either that a manager was undertaking an appropriate NVQ, or was at least scheduled to be registered to undertake the award within a reasonable period of time."
"If the latter were the case, the quarry inspector would expect to see that the manager in question was maintaining an up-to-date record of continuing professional development (CPD) with a recognized body –– such as The Institute of Quarrying –– as demonstrable evidence that efforts were being made to maintain and develop relevant levels of further knowledge and skills."
"The meeting concluded with agreement to formulate a response for Ken Riley, chairman of EPIC Training, to communicate to the HSE –– although it was recognized that nothing less than a proper commitment from the industry to ‘put its house in order’ would be adequate."