In any well-run organisation, staff are required to be competent to perform the tasks assigned to them. This is particularly important in organisations dealing with safety-related systems (e.g., fly-by-wire in aircraft, railway signalling systems, etc.), who may find that their customers need assurance that the organisation’s personnel can be shown to meet the necessary standards of competency.
There are several benefits to formally assessing the competence of individuals, including meeting the requirements of safety legislation, identifying personnel development needs, balancing team skills and as an aid to succession planning.
Competence is not just about qualifications. It also includes skills (e.g., problem solving) and behaviours (e.g., personal integrity) that enable an individual to perform a function effectively. The question is how do you assess competence?
In 1999 the IET published “Safety Competency and Commitment – Competency Guidance for Safety-related System Practitioners” to help organisations answer this question. This guidance has now been revised to fit in with the HSE’s recently published document “Managing Competence for Safety-related Systems” that outlines one model for good competency management practice.
The new guidance “Competence Criteria for Safety-related System Practitioners” follows the HSE’s competence assessment model and explains how a competency assessment can be performed. It includes detailed competence criteria for typical safety-critical functions, taking into account the different competencies required to perform those functions at differing levels of expertise.
It is published as a PDF file, and runs to 83 pages and can be downloaded for £30.The licence accompanying the document allows organisations to extract parts of the guidance for use within their own internal management system.