To be considered competent, one must know what to do and how to do it. Competency, as it relates to work, means you have the knowledge, training and experience needed to complete your work safely and efficiently. A competent worker is familiar with the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Act, knows the regulations relating to their work and has knowledge of potential/actual hazards in their workplace. This competency is gained through education/training (formal and informal) as well as through experience and practice.
What does it mean to be a competent worker in Alberta?
Alberta’s occupational health and safety legislation define a competent worker as one who is adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with a minimal degree of supervision.
Who determines if a worker in Alberta is competent?
It is the employer who must justify the basis on which a worker is considered to be “adequately qualified”, “suitably trained” and has “sufficient experience”. Every organization must determine the requirements for each position or task to be done. Organizations are required to prepare individuals/teams to be competent by facilitating the appropriate education, training, skills development, and experience. Methods of gaining experience may include mentorship, assisting senior workers, scenario-based training, observation, etc.
General work competency:
For an employee to be competent in the health and safety aspects of their work, they must meet the following requirements:
- be qualified because of knowledge, training, and experience to do the assigned work
- have knowledge about the hazards and risks associated with the job to be performed
- know how to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and risks
- know what precautions to take or controls to use for the different hazards or risks
- have the ability to work so that their health and safety and the health and safety of others are not in danger
- have knowledge of the laws and regulations that apply to the work being done
What is the difference between education and training?
Both education and training are required to create competent employees.
- Education is a learning cycle for a person to achieve information and comprehension in regards to their job (studying books, listening to a teacher, following eLearning, reading on the web). It provides theoretical support to allow a properly trained employee to achieve safe production every day. Education without training leads to disordered work outcomes.
- Training is the development of skills and knowledge; improving capability, capacity, productivity and performance. It’s the process of learning the skills you need to do a particular job or activity through mentorship, assisting senior workers, scenario-based training and/or observation. Induction training, job instruction and refresher training are all essential. Training without education creates an employee/workforce that lacks preparedness to deal with unusual circumstances that may arise.
What are the risks encountered when workers are incompetent?
When incompetence goes unnoticed, your business and your people are at risk. Whether it’s unsatisfactory production, low morale, disruption of workflow, incorrect job completion and/or the risk of injury/death, there are always consequences. There is a chance that your business processes will be less efficient and more expensive. Incompetent employees are less able to perform to expectations, meaning their work is costing you in all areas. There is a greater risk of incidence of injury and/or death.
How do I ensure my employees are competent?
Establish a list of the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for each position in your organization. Ensure you hire qualified, certified and authorized personnel. Undertake frequent health and safety training (yearly, monthly, daily). Provide induction training for new employees, on-the-job training, health and safety courses and refresher training.
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