Competence assurance

Published:  08 April, 2015

The British Fluid Power Association (BFPA) outlines what companies should do in order to best ensure they have an effective occupational health and safety management regime in place.

British Standard OHSAS 18001 (Occupational health and safety management systems. Requirements) helps organisations to implement a sound occupational health and safety management system so they can reduce risks to personnel and put the necessary safety measures in place.

Clause 4.4.2 of this document says the following regarding competence, training and awareness: “The organisation shall ensure that any person(s) performing tasks that can impact on OH&S is (are) competent on the basis of appropriate education, training or experience, and shall retain associated records.”

A Competence Management System (CMS) therefore considers many different factions to be undertaken and should be continually reviewed in order to ensure that a robust system is in place.

Competence is defined further in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document ‘HSE Human Factors Briefing Note No. 2 Competence’, which states: “Competence is the ability to undertake responsibilities and to perform activities to a recognised standard on a regular basis. Competence is a combination of practical and thinking skills, experience and knowledge.”

This document states: “We (the HSE) need to know that your company has competent employees: people who have the skills, experience and knowledge to do their job properly and safely under all working conditions.” The following bullet points show the three main things that a company needs to do in order to make sure that staff are competent:

• Select the right people.

• Train them.

• Assess them (at various stages).

These three stages come together to form the ‘competence assurance’ system of a company. Such a system needs to be continuous, not a one-off process – the cycle for which is shown in the infographic below.

The HSE Briefing Note below is a competence checklist that outlines how the HSE identifies how good companies approach competence.

In next month’s BFPA Top Tips page we will look at how the subject of competence assurance can be specifically applied to the practice of managing and inspecting hydraulic hose.

More information

The above is an edited version of information found in the manual that accompanies the BFPA’s Hose Integrity, Inspection and Management course. For more information on competence assurance or the range of the Association’s hose training courses, please contact the BFPA at, tel: 01608 647900 or visit the website at:

HSE Human Factors Briefing Note No. 2 Competence

Competence checklist – how good companies approach competence:

• Know all hazards that could arise in every task (including normal operational, maintenance and emergency tasks).

• Have a good selection process to identify suitable employees or contractors for those tasks.

• Know the exact type of person to assign to each task.

• Have enough people on hand always to be able to put the right person onto a particular job.

• Ensure you can identify any gaps in a person’s necessary skills, knowledge or experience (competence).

• Know the best way of providing the skills and knowledge that people need (e.g. training, including on-the-job training).

• Have access to the best training resources (training facilities, trainers and equipment).

• Make it easy for people to get the training they need.

• Always use actual work instructions/procedures in people’s training.

• Continually improve managers’ competence, as well as staff competence.

• Never make a person do a job he/she is not competent do.

• Assess whether training has worked.

• Retrain people as and when necessary.

• Keep good records so that it is known what training/experience each person has had and what they need next.

• Change the selection, training and assessment system if it isn’t working.

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