Competent staff are fundamental to ensuring you have a safe operation.
Staff may be employees, contractors or volunteers. Staff will usually exclude trainees, people gaining work experience and accompanying adults - their safety should be managed just like participants in the activities.
The following will help ensure you select the right staff for your operation:
- ensure that job descriptions include clearly defined roles, responsibilities and associated skill sets
- check that the skill sets you require are in line with current industry practice, e.g. check with technical advisors, good practice documents and national bodies
- identify the attitude and attributes you need to support your safety culture and check references to help verify these things are present.
Induction processes must include a documented procedure supported by a practical induction programme.
One person should manage the overall induction process. They must have a strong understanding of what needs to be covered but may delegate out parts of the process. Induction on each topic must be run by a person competent in that particular part of the operation e.g. technical operational procedures and discussions on serious risks.
Your induction process must clearly identify where a staff member is competent and where they require further training and supervision.
Include the following in your induction processes:
- checks for required competencies
- job description familiarisation to ensure safety roles and responsibilities are understood
- safety management plan familiarisation to ensure they understand your systems relevant to their role and responsibilities, e.g. risk management processes, incident reporting, emergency response
- operational safety information including risk, hazards and how to mitigate them i.e. standard operational procedures, familiarisation with each activity/area relevant to their role, discussion about important risks and hazards, how to deal with them and any key incidents or learning that led to your current procedures
- reinforce that you cannot plan for all risks and therefore that dynamic risk management is critical to safety, that they have a responsibility to ‘speak up’ and must stop an activity any time they feel it is unsafe
- make it clear when they can make independent risk management decisions in the field and when this might be appropriate, e.g. some staff may need to defer to a more experienced or qualified person
- kit issue - uniform and safety gear
- organisation familiarisation - a tour of premises and staff introductions
- collection of personal information e.g. drivers licence, next of kin contacts, medical information, qualifications, IRD number
New activities or a new activity area must trigger a staff induction process and should also be included as part of the ongoing training and assessment cycle.
Remember that the induction process is an important opportunity to embed your operation’s safety culture.
It is your legal responsibility to ensure that your staff are competent to safely do their job - this means they must have the right skills, knowledge, experience and judgement.
Know what competencies the job requires
Ensure that each job role has detailed information on what competencies are required. Check these against industry good practice requirements such as Activity Safety Guidelines and expert advice.
Remember to check that you include all the competencies required for different responsibilities, sites and activities. Factors to consider include:
- level of experience
- judgement and decision making
- criteria for a fit and proper person
- personal technical skills, including equipment knowledge
- risk management, group management, and leadership skills
- ability to operate to standard operating procedures
- familiarity with and understanding of the operational environment
- ability to communicate safety requirements/directions clearly to participants and other staff
- rescue and emergency management skills, including first aid.
Checking staff competency
You must check competence using methods that meet industry good practice standards. Check the Activity Safety Guidelines to see if there are specific recommendations for the activities you provide.
Checking competence will usually require more than one measure. Common ways of measuring include:
- attestations and statements of competence
- in-house and site specific skill checks
Qualifications are not a legal requirement for most adventure activities, however they should be used where practical as they provide a very efficient and industry endorsed way to prove competence in specific skills. For many activities it is industry good practice to hold a certain qualification. Check the Activity Safety Guidelines to see if this is this case for an activity you provide.
To establish equivalency of one qualification with another, an operator should contact the benchmark qualification provider and ask what process they recommend. This includes checking whether an international qualification is equivalent to a NZ standard.
You need to know what a qualification actually measures, this is sometimes called the 'scope' of the qualification, and check this against what is required to safely perform the job. It is unusual for a qualification to cover all the skills and knowledge required to safely do a specific job within a particular operation. Where there are additional skills required they must be checked by other means.
Checking competencies not covered by qualifications
How you check competencies not covered by qualifications must be detailed in your safety management system. Common methods include in-house checks, site specific training, attestations and statements of competence. These checks must be done by someone who:
- has a qualification to do so, or
- is an expert in the level above the skill set being checked and who understands national expectations on competence standards.
There are examples of competence checklists and statements of competence in the Templates section.
Ensuring on-going competence
You need to systematically check that staff are still competent to do their jobs. Some competencies may almost never get used, such as emergency procedures or those specific to a certain site, and some will need to be checked more often than others. Use expert advice when developing your competence checking system.
Some qualifications require regular currency checks. If a qualification doesn't do this, check the date it was assessed and decide how much you can rely on the qualification to verify competence now. Do you need to do further competence checks?
Establish 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 and don't do that role. Have clear procedures to follow if staff are not competent e.g. stand-downs, retraining or supervision.
On-going training is important however it should not be relied on as assuring competence unless it includes deliberately checking that the staff member is competent in all the skills required for the task.
An assistant is responsible for managing some tasks within the guide or instructor role, but not all. Skills required will vary, depending on the tasks to be managed.
When using an assistant ensure that:
- tasks to be managed, safety responsibilities, required skills and supervision expectations are clearly identified - to the assistant and to other staff
- the assistant is verified as competent in the required skills
- the assistant only manages the tasks for which they are verified as competent
- the competence of the assistant is considered when establishing participant supervision structures.
You must be sure that the contractors you use are competent and operating safely, and that you are all meeting your responsibilities as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).
To ensure contractors are competent and operating safely you should:
- if the contractor is working within your SMS - have the relevant induction procedures in place
- if the contractor is working under their own SMS - check that their plan meets legal and good practice standards, and that it 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 risk management processes for relevant parts of your operation - identifying, assessing and deciding how to manage risks
- ensure contractors are included in your incident reporting systems as relevant to their role
- monitor contractor's safety performance
To understand your PCBU responsibilities, such as clarifying who is managing which risks, read WorkSafe's Adventure Activities information for contractors and organisations using contractors.
Staff working alone refers to instances where there is literally no other person with them - staff or participants. e.g. setting up a site before other people arrive.
Working alone exposes staff to the risk of a delayed rescue, and can expose them to other additional risks. WorkSafe NZ prefers that people do not work alone, however there are times in adventure activity operations where it may be acceptable if the risk can be managed to an acceptable level.
When considering whether a staff member should work alone, use a risk management process to identify risks and assess whether they can be managed to an acceptable level. Consider:
- the nature of any incidents that could occur and the likelihood that the staff member would not be able to self rescue or call for help
- the competence and equipment required for a staff member to self-rescue
- whether emergency help will arrive within timeframes that enable effective rescue
If risk cannot be manged to an acceptable level, ensure there are at least two staff members working together and that they are able to rescue each other and/or manage an incident until emergency help arrives.
Unsafe staff may be incompetent due to inadequate training or induction, or they may be temporarily impaired due to alcohol, drugs, fatigue or a medical condition or injury.
The most important first action is to remove the unsafe staff member from the role requiring performance of safety tasks.
Knowing how to identify and deal with staff who are unable to safely fulfill the responsibility of their role due to impairment can be difficult. Your SMS should include reasonable cause indicators and a process to follow if anyone on your team feels that a staff member is unsafe. For an example of this see the SOP's template for reasonable cause indicators and processes.
On-going training for individuals and the entire team should be:
- regular, consistent and properly aligned with role requirements
- reflective of the complexity and risk level of the activity, i.e. 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 set-ups, difficult safety and/or rescue tasks
- addressing any new tasks, operations, equipment or new activity areas
- inclusive of support staff in roles such as emergency communications
- 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
Staff records help you to know you've covered all your staff related safety system responsibilities. It is likely that they will be checked by your auditor.
- ensure that each individual has their own record showing an accurate history of their time with your company
- keep a jointly signed-off record (staff and management) of each aspect of induction training, including confirmation that the required standard for the role has been attained
- record evidence of how you have verified staff competence e.g. relevant staff qualifications, in-house sign-offs, statements of competence
- record personal information such as medical conditions and emergency contact information
- capture informal (spontaneous) training/monitoring and formal (scheduled) sessions
- record team training e.g. emergency scenario training
- schedule regular updates of your records to make sure the information is current.