What Is A Competency Assessment? Importance & How to Build Your Program!

What Is A Competency Assessment? Importance & How to Build Your Program!

How does your company ensure that their workers are competent to operate equipment and perform their required tasks?

“Is this person competent to do this job?” is one of the first things we should be asking as safety professionals. Do you know you need to perform competencies, but there just isn't enough time to learn about them and then create the forms and train your team?

When I worked on major projects the number of incidents directly linked back to the worker not being competent to do the task was astounding. Obviously, their employer had not performed a competency on them. What is more frightening is how many workers were asked to do very dangerous jobs for which they had not been adequately trained or had no experience beyond their training courses. 

Our biggest problem is not knowing what we don’t know! Assuming a worker is competent based on their certificates and resume is a recipe for disaster! 

You may be able to tell we are pretty passionate about this one!

How do we determine this in a standardized and thorough manner?  We need to make sure that workers who are not competent are placed under the direct supervision of someone who has been deemed competent.


What Are Competency Assessments? Competent vs Competency

There is a big difference between “competency” and being competent. Let’s look at the definitions.

Definition of Competent

  • Having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully. efficient and capable.

Definition of A Competency

  • An assessment tool used in multiple industries which checks and determines the skill of a worker. 

Nothing like starting off a blog post with definitions to highlight how complex a subject can be! Step one is simplifying the complexities. The end goal is that every worker is competent to complete a task or operate tools or equipment. To ensure you reach that goal, you must set up a standardized program that determines the skills required for a task and verifies that a worker demonstrates those skills. 

Remember, new workers often misjudge the complexity of a task when they observe the effortless performance of more experienced and skilled workers.


How Do You Create A Competency-Based Assessment Program?

Putting a workable plan in place makes creating your program much less daunting! 

The plan is simple… a set of lists, a step-by-step process of gathering and documenting what exactly determines competency.


Step 1 - Your pool of competent workers already has years of experience. Remember that invaluable resource! Bring your experienced workers into the process early. Their expertise will be needed in the competency program development. They will be your competency assessors once the program is up and running.


Step 2 -  Review your incident and injury reports for the past year. Which of these had causal factors based on inexperience and lack of training? Keep this in mind as you develop your list. Which tasks or equipment operations should be prioritized on your list of competency evaluations?


Step 3 - Gather your material. OH&S Legislation, Safe Operating Procedures, critical task lists and manufacturers’ guidelines provide the key points.

Experienced, competent workers will know what to look for beyond just the “book learning”. Think beyond the obvious! Include hand or foot positioning, the awareness of other workers in the area, and the nuances that only those with experience can provide. 


Step 4 - Develop the forms. The competency report will be a series of checklists. Build these based on the information required to verify the competency of your worker. 

Include an area to note the reason for the competency. Is it:

  • for a new hire or young worker, 
  • being completed after refresher training, or 
  • as a result of an incident, 

Leave room for comments from the evaluator and the worker being assessed. Provide the option for follow-up and additional training when needed.


Step 5 - Determine when competencies will be conducted. Train your evaluators to guide the new worker through the tasks in such a way that all the items on the report can be observed. 

Consistent and routine competency evaluation is key.


What Are The Benefits Of Performing Competency Assessments?

For the Worker:

Even overconfident workers appreciate not being “thrown in the deep end”. Taking the time to ensure that a worker is competent has a multitude of benefits. 

  • Workers feel valued and know that their safety is a priority. 
  • Safety culture improves when proactive processes are in place.
  • When competencies are routine at the workplace, workers are encouraged to request evaluations and training. 

For the Company:

When workers are competent, your company benefits!

  • Downtime decreases and productivity increases.
  • The quality of work improves with fewer errors, defects or rejects
  • The overall safety record improves due to the decrease in incidents and injuries
  • Worksites become more compliant with OH&S legislation
  • As the employer, competencies reflect Due Diligence in the safety of workers.
  • Consistent assessment and standardized procedures encourage worker retention

In this video we teach you the importance of competency checks and then how you can build or strengthen your existing program.


How Safety Software Can Help With Your Competency Assessments!

Most employers struggle with competency programs because of the amount of work that it takes to build one, perform the competencies and finally the administrative time it takes to record and track everything. 

This was one of many issues that we faced as safety professionals when we built the Safety Evolution software. 

Imagine that your competency program was automated! 

  • There would be reminders for follow-up. 
  • The completed competency reports would be automatically added to your worker's profile. 
  • The evaluator and the worker could complete the electronic form together. 
  • Management and supervisors could view the results in real-time.
  • The need for additional training would never be missed! 

These are just a few of the ways that Safety Evolution Software streamlines your safety management system. If this sounds like “Safety Nirvana” to you, then click the link below!

Click the link below to book a Demo to discuss how you and your team could simplify this process and buy back some of your time.

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