Access All Areas September 2019 - Page 53

Competence and qualification: the sleeping issue SEPTEMBER | NOEA COLUMN Chris Woodford, director A.C.T. National Ltd, Specialists in Health & Safety takes over Susan’s spot this month... S omeone asked me the other day ‘what really upsets you about the job you do?’ My answer was an issue that has been eating on me for some time, and following our conversation, continued to eat on me even more. Luckily the age of social media gives me the perfect opportunity to vent my thoughts, and to relieve my inner torment, I posted a pointed yet pithy comment about the subject on LinkedIn. It caused quite a reaction; 100+ immediate responses and a whole load of comments later, it dawned on me that I am not alone in my opinions on this matter. The matter in hand? Competence and Qualification. I have to briefly mention that this is a subject that doesn’t exactly ‘really upset’ me, but it does ‘disappointment’ me, and clearly it eats away at me on a professional basis. Why? The reality is that across the UK, we have some of the best, globally recognised health and safety people on the planet. The UK is seen as best in class, and through the NOEA, I’ve been fortunate to have met and worked with some intelligent, diligent and professional people. However, despite their many qualities, many of them are not qualified, and this inevitably questions competency. This may be a small point, and I don’t mean to be a pedant, but it’s also a really important one. By qualification, I mean professional accreditation, by a recognised body, and while one can be as exceptional at what they do as can be, qualification in this part of the events process, in my mind, is a must. It’s also important to underline the difference between quality and qualification. There is no lack of quality in these professionals, experience is incredibly important in this industry and many have over 30 years’. However, the difference between quality and qualification takes stark focus when an event is standing in front of a judge. At ACT we host annual live mock court days, which bring this sort of scenario to life. We pay professional barristers and judges to argue a case in an authentic setting so organisers and health and safety professionals can see what it all looks like. In front of a judge, experience counts for a bit, but the qualification is the most pressing. Without them, the arguments lose credibility and the judge loses patients and has to question competency. OK, so these occurrences are thankfully rare, and the idea of good people with good experience means we are actively trying to avoid just the sort of scenario that will end up in court. However, accidents do happen, and tragedies occur, when it comes to often matters of life or death, the law is looking for training and accreditation; and it’s hard not to agree with it. It’s become abundantly clear to me, the more I brood on this subject, that there are too many people not qualified to do their jobs, and not enough pressure from customers or the industry to encourage them to pick up these accreditations. If we don’t, this is a habit that will grow and become a massive sleeping giant in the industry, ready to wake and hurt it. As ever, we won’t really know the depth of this issue until its bought to life in tragedy, at which point it may just be too late. “This is a subject that doesn’t exactly ‘really upset’ me, but it does ‘disappointment’ me…” 53