As Australia’s employment rate increases, the question of competency – a worker’s skills and knowledge to perform their tasks – becomes a critical one to ensure safety at the workplace.
Ensuring workers are competent before they undertake high-risk work is especially important.
Where a number of high-risk activities take place on a regular basis, reliance on a high-risk work licence may be a legislative requirement, but it may not necessarily prove current competency. The fact that someone holds a licence evidencing training in a particular task is not the be-all and end-all of competency. If the licence is old and there is no evidence that the worker has performed those tasks for many years, the current level of competency may be very low.
One method of assessing competency is by undertaking a verification of competency (VOC) process.
What is the VOC process?
A VOC process will verify a new worker’s competency in a number of ways, commonly by:
- recognition of prior learning;
- on-site recognition of current competency; and
- training and development programs.
A documented assessment is the basis for VOC. Although technical knowledge is often assessed in a classroom environment, a worker’s knowledge can also be determined on the job through verbal questioning. When it comes to verifying someone’s skills to perform a task safely though, this is best done on the job through observing work performed as a simulation or test task.
Recognising prior learning is a valid way of verifying competency. This process is used to determine the worker’s experience and knowledge gained through training, whether formal or informal, and other work experience. This approach can be used for your workers if they are involved in undertaking repeated tasks or working on a particular piece of equipment for many years.
You can also recognise current competency. This approach involves a process to check the current competency of a person who has previously completed an assessment elsewhere. The important aspect for this type of process is to ensure that any evidence given or assessed as part of that verification is current and authentic.
Finally, you might rely on a training and development program, whether via a classroom environment or online. In either case, the training units need to match the criteria of competency for the particular task. A common way this outcome is achieved is through a worker completing and passing specific components of a course conducted by a technical college or Registered Training Organisation.
This all means that you have a number of options to assess competency, including:
- a previous assessment of competency;
- a statement of attainment or other nationally recognised qualification;
- evidence of completed training at an industry training school or competency card from that industry; and
- evidence of on-the-job training by another experienced and competent person, along with logbooks.
Regardless of how you choose to assess a new worker’s competency, you will still want to observe a new worker perform the job for you when they start.
Check out the Health & Safety Handbook chapter Competency to find out more on this topic.