Becoming a Competent OH Advisor

Under UK health and safety legislation employers are required to have access to competent practitioners. One acronym used by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for the concept of a competent person is ‘SKATE’, which encompasses the ‘skills, knowledge, attitude, training as well as experience’ of the individual. The type of competency required will be determined by their specific job role, risk level of the working environment and level of responsibility.

Learning is a multidimensional process and the onus is ultimately on the learner to identify and develop the required competencies for their specific job role in their specific work environments. Where possible this should be with appropriate supervision or with access to a more competent person to offer discussion opportunities, reassurance and promote confidence.

Attending a course or receiving support will not make you a ‘competent practitioner’ but depending on the offering it may provide you with some of the SKATE elements. Use of a learning log to record key ideas and action points is encouraged so these are not lost on return to the workplace.

Use of end of course testing is generally avoided as it does not prove learning, application of knowledge or competence, simply that information is known or retained. Some courses may impart knowledge and others may promote critical thinking. The challenge is for the learner to reflect and apply information gained in an appropriate way in the practice setting. For short courses, certificates relate to attendance, participation and completion rather than competence.

To benefit most from any learning investment it is helpful when employers have a process in place, such as appraisal setting and performance review, plus competent clinical supervision (for nurses). This helps ensure that any gaps from theory to practice are addressed so learning becomes embedded in day to day practice, with ongoing support. This can lead to benefits for the organisation with potential improvement in OH service provision. Employed lone or self-employed practitioners may benefit from the learning or review support options under the website ‘HUB EXTRA’ buttons.