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Competent staff are one of the mainstays of ensuring that you have a safe operation.

Safety Culture

A positive safety culture is the principle on which all other safety aspects are founded. Managing safety culture is a crucial part of effective staff management.

Driven and sustained by committed leaders, a positive culture is characterised by full buy-in to your systems and procedures, with every individual taking personal responsibility for the welfare of their visitors, other team members and themselves. The WorkSafe NZ website has excellent information and tools on how to establish, embed and measure safety culture.

  • To see the WorkSafe NZ information and tools on safety culture click here


Successful staff selection is most likely to be achieved by:
  • Having a planned selection process to ensure that you attract the right applicants and ultimately select the right person.
  • Having job descriptions that clearly define roles and responsibilities
  • Ensuring that job descriptions are accompanied by clearly defined skill sets
  • Checking that the skill sets you require are in line with current industry practice e.g. by checking with industry experts and national bodies
  • Ensuring that you are using suitable methods to verify competence in the required skill sets 
  • Conscientiously identifying what you are looking for in a team member and checking references to help verify these things are present.


A successful induction process should be managed by a competent team member – this is an early opportunity to embed your operation’s safety culture.

 Use a checklist that includes:

"Our staff can bring us to our knees or make us all we can be – we decided a long time ago that we would go all out to find the right people and it’s paid us back a thousand times"

  • Verification of required competencies e.g. confirmation that they have the skill sets needed to do the job safely and well
  • Job description familiarisation e.g. ensuring that safety responsibilities are understood
  • Safety Management Plan familiarisation; ensure they understand your systems and their responsibilities within it e.g. hazard assessment and management, and incident reporting
  • Operational safety information e.g. standard operational procedures for, and familiarisation with each activity/area relevant to their role - particularly significant hazards, how to deal with them and any key learnings that led to your current procedures
  • Emergency procedures e.g. contingency and emergency plans
  • Kit issue e.g. uniform and safety gear
  • Organisation familiarisation e.g.  a tour of premises and  staff introductions
  • Collection of personal information e.g. drivers licence, next of kin, qualifications and IRD number
  • A  jointly signed-off record of  each aspect of  induction training, including confirmation that the required standard for the role has been attained

 Verification of Competence

The way you verify staff competence must be suitable.

Verifying competency must be done by a suitable person. This person should have a qualification to do so, or be a technical expert in the skill to be verified who understands national expectations on competence standards.
A technical expert is someone with sufficient experience and knowledge in an activity who could be used to assist an organisation with technical tasks and safety advice. This person may be from within or outside the organisation and will usually hold a high level relevant qualification (where such a qualification exists).Supporting criteria include:
  • Activity experience from a variety of settings
  • Ability to represent current industry best practice
  • Being nationally recognised within the activity group for knowledge of safety  in the activity
Verifying competence will often require more than one measure. Ways of measuring include:
  • Qualifications
  • Log Books
  • Attestations
  • In-house skill checks, training and incident records
  • Field checks, familiarisation trips and observations
  • Statements of competence
When verifying competence it is important to consider:
  • Current qualifications are a credible way to measure competence. Where a job carries responsibility for managing high levels of risk and a qualification matches a skill set needed for that job it should be used
  • Required skill sets not covered by current qualifications must be verified using a measure that suits the degree of safety responsibility associated with the skill set and therefore the level of competence assurance required 
  • The verification system used should ensure currency of competence

Examples of Statements of Competence can be found on the 'Forms and Checklists' page in the 'Operator Forum' section of this site

Information on what 's happening with qualifications in New Zealand and links to qualification providers can be found in the 'Other Resources' section of this site. 



Fostering open, regular, effective communication with your team underpins the success or failure of your Safety Management System. This may be achieved in many ways, but should include:
  • Building a culture of trust in which your team know they can raise any issues or concerns and they will be handled in a constructive and supportive manner
  • Regular team discussions about the importance of open and honest communication and the role of each person in making sure it happens
  • Acknowledging and accommodating individual communication styles, but ensuring the underlying principles of being open and honest are the same for all
  • Ensuring a range of ‘fit for purpose’ communication options are used that meet the needs of your team; these may range from informal operational chats through to pre-season safety meetings with  formal agendas


Ongoing-training for individuals and the entire team should be:
  • Recorded and reviewed
  • Regular, consistent and properly aligned with role requirements
  • Reflective of  the complexity and risk level of the activity e.g. happens more often for some activities than for others
  • Influenced by needs identified during  induction and ongoing staff monitoring
  • Based on  mutually agreed training plans that add value to the organisation and those involved  e.g. individuals learning to back a shuttle trailer or achieve a qualification; the team practicing realistic  scenario- based rescue training
  • Addressing areas of challenge in your operation e.g. difficult equipment setups and difficult safety and/or rescue tasks
  • Addressing any new tasks, operations or equipment
  • Conducted using an appropriate learning approach e.g. group teaching, mentoring and/or trip observation
  • Challenging and extending
  • Resourced in terms of people, budget and time


Ensure that your team are competent and following your standard operating procedures (SOPs) by:
  • Providing supervision while in training or as required
  • Allocating roles that take into account  levels of experience, current competency  and safety records
  • Ensuring that there is a culture of absolute competency to do the job e.g. if someone is injured or not current in a required skill area, they speak up...
  • Ensuring that staff feel safe to raise concerns they may have about aspects of their own competence, or the training they receive.
  • Systems and checks including:
    • Using internal  checks carried out by appropriate people e.g. periodically checking staff knowledge and skills to a pre-determined standard
    • Monitoring staff implementation of SOPs in the field e.g. supervisor or peer feedback
    • Ensuring staff qualifications and competency statements are current 
    • Having a clear procedure to follow if staff fail to meet the pre-determined standard e.g. stand-downs, retraining or supervision
    • Considering client feedback on your team members

Record Keeping

Recording your staff selection, induction, training and monitoring is part of running a well organised and professional operation. Record keeping should:
  • Ensure that each individual has their own record showing an accurate history of their time with your company
  • Contain evidence of verification of staff competence e.g. relevant staff qualifications, in-house sign-offs, statements of competence
  • Include personal information such as medical conditions and emergency contact information
  • Be as simple as possible e.g. aim to capture the basic information including date, place, scenario or activity, comments, trainer and trainee 
  • Capture informal (spontaneous) training/monitoring and  formal (scheduled) sessions
  • Ensure team ( not just individual) training is recorded e.g. emergency scenario training
  • Be reviewed regularly to ensure information is up to date


"For many years we made quite quick decisions based largely on a friend’s recommendation or a gut feeling; we made too many mistakes. We still use these measures, but only as part of a bigger process which checks for all the things we need – including technical skills and qualifications"

You must verify the competence of contractors you employ. To meet this obligation you should:
  • Have procedures that include checking their understanding of your safety management plan (SMP) if they are working within it, and if they are working under their own SMP, checking that their plan does not vary greatly from your own and meets your safety expectations
  • Consider having their plan reviewed by an external expert, particularly if you have contracted out a significant safety aspect of your operation that is outside your area of technical expertise
  • Ensure contractors are included in your hazard management processes
  • Monitor their performance, particularly around safety