What is Competency?

A key part in managing the risks at an operating facility is ensuing that personnel are competent in their roles and understand how Process Safety Management (PSM) works in their organisation.  Organisations such as the ISC (IChemE Safety Centre) have developed Competence Frameworks that map out process safety competency requirements for different roles. In reality, how many organisations deliver on this? Do front line staff get the same level of competence investment that management and engineering personnel get whilst they are the most exposed to potential events?

Should We Rely on the Process Safety Evangelist Approach?

Process Safety training has been available in the market for over 20 years. There are numerous face- to-face training courses available  that cater for different needs. They typically range from 1 to 5 days and the costs typically range from several hundred to thousands of dollars. Whilst much is gained in the interactions that occur between trainer and participants, the costs and logistics often are a significant barrier in developing the broader organisations competence.  Across industry, we currently rely on developing process safety evangelists within our business as the key means of PSM delivery.

Safety Solutions have been running a process safety training for over 15 years and see these dynamics time and time again. With internal staff movements and constraints on training spend, we have seen many companies not materially move forward over several years. Often when the evangelist moves on to a new role, there is a significant step backwards. How do we broaden out the skill pool so that ever person associated with an operation understands the basics and can more effectively contribute to PSM? This is what is needed to shift the culture.

Diversification of Training Across a Business

To deliver on competence development for the business, the following training model is proposed. It is fundamentally based on foundation training that the whole company receives.

competence implementation model

Key Points

  1. All staff associated with the operation should be trained to an introduction level and understand what good practice PSM look like. It is important that front line staff can articulate effective PSM to their colleagues.
  2. Layer on organisational, facility and role specific training to develop necessary skills to drive competence performance. Examples of this could include:a) Operational PSM workshops for operators
    b) Developing internal leadership capability at the technical level (HAZOP, LOPA etc)
    c) Executive and board training on PSM due diligence
  3. Refresher and assessment to be part of the competence program.


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An Approach to Raising the Competency of Your Business

Train the Leadership

Your companies leadership are the rudder that steers the direction of your boat. If there is no understanding of PSM at this level, there will be no desire to approach PSM issues. Put your leadership team through Process Safety Leadership training which is tailored to give them the understanding to allow the experts to drive initiatives forward.

e-learning for the Masses

The old metaphor of ensuring everyone is “singing from the same hymn sheet” is as relevant to process safety as it is to anything else. Process Safety comes with it’s own set of terminology and principles and ensuring that everybody understands where their roll fits in is important. We are firm believers that if you teach people the bigger picture they will see this and ensure that they aim to do what is required of them to make the whole plant a safer place. This principle can be applied from the person who is designing plant equipment, to the person operating it, to the person in HR recruiting the right staff.

There have been many articles written on the benefits of e-learning such as this one, 9 Benefits of eLearning for Students, and there is no need to reproduce it here. To see what we offer click the link here for an Introduction to Process Safety and if you would like a taste of what e-learning is like, we have module 1 of our process safety course from our e-learning portal available to try:

Try Process Safety E-Learning : Module 1

Ensuring Competency of Participants at Safety Assessment Reviews

One of the first questions asked at the start of a HAZOP is “Is everybody familiar with the HAZOP process?” if the answer is no then there is probably only about 5 min in the schedule to squeeze in an explanation of how a HAZOP works. One of the biggest reasons for a lack of contribution in a review is through not understanding the process and a realisation that you have been asked to attend as it is believed you contribution is valuable. There are two ways to get understanding: have staff attend reviews and be considered dead weight until they get confident or give them training so they can hit the ground running in their first meeting.

Safety Solutions have a number of courses to get staff hitting the ground running, with a mix of e-learning, face to face and online facilitated presentations:

Develop the Process Safety Experts 

Developing Process Safety experts among your team is important to ensure there are people driving to be leaders of the standards that need to be maintained to ensure PSM is effective. An understanding of a broader range of topics is required as well as the ability to lead reviews. Development of facilitation skills is as important as the understanding of the topics themselves. Our HAZOP Leaders course focuses on developing these skills along with a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the process. Safety Solutions have a suite of high level training courses to ensure a company can operate with the appropriate competency levels

Think You Have Competency Sorted? 

So you think you have competency sorted, Safety Solutions have a comprehensive PSM Audit process that includes competency, let us as independent auditors look to find where the gaps in your system are. If you aren’t ready for that, document the quality of your PSM competence program yourself by downloading the checklist we use for our audits.

Download PSM Competency Checklist