WHS Training is More than Just Training

Training in work health and safety (WHS) is very important as should be, any training. But students are not often advised how to make the best of their WHS training.

Individuals undertake training because they have a need to improve their skills, to gain new ones or to polish the existing skills and qualifications.  This may have resulted from a training needs analysis conducted by the employer; it could have resulted from a WHS audit that identified workers undertaking tasks for which they were not, or insufficiently, qualified.  It may also be because an employer is diligent in the administration their training register and accept that using competent and suitably qualified personnel is a crucial element of achieving and maintaining compliance with WHS laws.

Regardless of the motivation, the individual attends classes to learn.

Most students will leave their training course with a sense of satisfaction in passing the exams, be they theoretical or practical.  Passing a training course is an endorsement that you have the skills to do a job safely.  But having the skills is not the same as applying them.

When returning to work it is important that supervisors know how things have improved.  They need to be reassured that the student has the skills AND the knowledge to use them properly.  This will vary, dependent on the type of training undertaken but it is useful to discuss these skills with your supervisor who is likely to have had the same skills for much longer.  This experience is an important element in reinforcing or tempering the enthusiasm one may feel.

Students want to please their employers and their supervisors and show that the training investment was not wasted.  But the enthusiasm can sometimes be applied in the wrong context.  For instance, in relation to working at heights training that may involve an Elevated Work Platform (EWP), a newly qualified student will want to get into the EWP to show their new skills but also to familiarise themselves with the type of EWP used on site.  

But skills should never be applied without being aware of the work environment in which the article of plant is to be used.  There are important safety protocols that still need to be applied regardless of the skills the worker has.  EWPs often require spotters who supervise the horizontal movement of the plant, but in light of some recent fatalities, just as importantly, look at the vertical movement of the EWP, watching out for canopies, electrical wires, ceilings and other obstacles at height.

Similarly, working at heights training would qualify someone to work at height but the company, and maybe the client, will still have significant safety protocols that need to be followed.  Any supervisors of heights work would continue to be uncertain of the training the student has received until the employed has showed both that they have the appropriate skills and they know how to use those skills appropriately.  Any supervisor that did not have this perspective would be likely to be breaching their WHS duty of care.

As well making sure that supervisors know that the training has been successful, there is an administrative process that should be undertaken.  Employees need to make sure that the qualifications are entered on the company’s training register.  This is a list of employees, the training qualifications held and the expiry date of that training certification.  Not only because, hopefully, the employer has paid for the training, the employer needs to be able to show that they are using only competent people to do specific work tasks, such as working at height, or operating an EWP.

Individuals, particularly in construction it seems, often maintain their own “register” of tickets.  Whether this is a small folder containing all the relevant training, induction and identification cards or a tobacco tin or a small Tupperware container, does not matter. The importance is that the certifications are readily available where one is working – not in the ute, or back in the lunch shed but in one’s tool box or shirt pocket.  These certifications can be called for by many people who visit the site and who need to be assured that contractors are operating to the commitments they made that won them the contract.

Students are justifiably proud of the qualifications they have achieved but these qualifications also have a legislative compliance role for employers.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised WHS training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/

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