Competence and training

Control Measure Knowledge

Occupational competence is defined as the ability to consistently achieve the stated outcome of workplace performance.

Competence and training policies should be established for the roles of all employees, including:

  • Operational personnel of all levels
  • Policy writers
  • Personnel who compile risk information or undertake risk assessments
  • Training instructors and assessors
  • Fire control personnel
  • Non-operational personnel
  • Investigating officers
  • Specialist advisers
  • Operational assurance officers

Competence and training policies should detail:

  • Clear definitions of the knowledge and skills that are required to demonstrate competence
  • How and to what level the required knowledge and skills will be assessed
  • How to identify employees who have not used their skills during a set period, indicating the need for refresher training or retesting
  • How to confirm that employees have received appropriate and sufficient training
  • The ways in which employees who have failed to demonstrate occupational competence will be managed

The expected occupational competence for all roles should be established taking into account:

  • The risk management plan
  • The expected activities of an individual based on their role
  • The incidents that operational personnel are likely to encounter

The established occupational competences should be based on role maps and relate to the relevant benchmark standards that define what competence is.

Services should set up and deliver an assessment, assurance and verification process that will give the competence process the impartiality, consistency, robustness and auditability it needs.

Managing competence and training

To effectively manage competence and training it is necessary to have in place a policy that is clear and well-structured. It should provide information on how competence and training is maintained and recorded.

A recording system of competence and training should:

  • Be easy to maintain
  • Provide all employees with the means to record and manage competence and training
  • Help to identify failings in competence, and what support is available to help correct this
  • Provide the means to interrogate records to identify up-to-date competence and training records of all employees

Training needs analysis

At a strategic level, fire and rescue services should have a clear understanding of the hazards faced by its employees. Risk assessments should be used to develop a training needs analysis (TNA), based on elements including:

  • The clearly defined roles that are required to meet the service’s risk management plan
  • The tactical plans needed to deliver the expected outcomes, based on the resources available
  • Defined standards of competence for:
    • Knowledge
    • Skills
  • An action plan for how competence will be achieved, including:
    • Acquisition of knowledge
    • Acquisition of skills
    • Consolidation and enhancement of job-related expertise
    • Maintenance of competence
    • Responsibilities, methods and frequency
  • Correlation of activities to the appropriate training specifications or standards and role maps

Based on the training needs analysis for all employees there should be:

  • Successful training to an appropriate standard, relevant to each employee’s role
  • Competent and proportionate assessment and appraisal of knowledge and skills

For operational personnel, the training needs analysis should also consider:

  • How training activities will be demonstrated in an operational context
  • How training will be synthesized in the absence of attending sufficient and appropriate incidents

To support the training needs analysis, effective training should be developed and delivered by suitably qualified personnel, or by an external training provider with appropriate credentials.

Competence standards for operational risk assessments

Standards should be established for personnel carrying out operational risk assessments, including competences for:

  • Accurately identify the hazards for:
    • Personnel
    • Members of the public
    • Property
    • The environment
  • Understanding the range of risk management options available within their fire and rescue service or from other agencies to remove or reduce risks
  • Understanding their responsibility for the safety of others and the effect of their actions on the effectiveness of the safety system
  • The ability to make professional judgements, taking account:
    • The available information
    • The severity and likelihood of the risk being assessed
    • The critical nature of the risk management options
  • Knowledge of the requirements and implications of legislation and regulations relevant to the fire and rescue service

Command competence

Due to its complexities, further detail relating to command competence is provided in Incident command: Knowledge, skills and competence.

Assess and monitor operational competence

Due to the hazards that may be encountered, it is important to be able to identify operational personnel in need of additional support and development at an early stage. While simulation can provide valuable evidence of potential performance and application in the workplace, fire and rescue services may choose to use workplace assessment at incidents to monitor for further evidence of application, as well as maintenance of individual competence.

When conducted at an operational incident, workplace assessment provides an important contribution to building a profile of an individual’s development by comparing a practical demonstration of underpinning skills, knowledge and understanding of operational response against the role map.

The effectiveness of a workplace assessment will depend on the competence of the assessor. As with any potential learning experience, a workplace assessment should provide objective, constructive feedback immediately after the activity. A suitable record of the activities that were assessed should be made.

Workplace assessments can be very useful if there is evidence that the competence of personnel carrying out safety-critical activities is not up to standard. There should be procedures in place for instances when it is necessary to remove an individual from an activity or their operational role until a suitable demonstration of underpinning knowledge and skills has been obtained.

Strategic Actions