Qualification is key

Qualification is key

An investigator, appointed in terms of General Administrative Regulations 9(2) to the OHS Act 85 of 1993, must be suitably trained. There are several organisations that present incident investigation training. “One of the first things to look for with such training is always its accreditation status,” Joubert points out. “Is the organisation accredited to present that unit standard? Is the specific course accredited to a unit standard? Is the organisation’s accreditation still valid?

“Accreditation, unfortunately, does not necessarily guarantee quality training, but it does provide some peace of mind.”

The next thing to consider is the training’s content. “This is determined to some extent on which unit standard the training is based, but it is possible for two courses to be quite different even though both may be based on the same unit standard. Ensure the training addresses your specific needs,” he warns, adding that it is also important to note that if you ask for customisation to be made to courses, it may affect the accreditation status for that particular course.

“Another thing to remember,” he says, “is to ensure the content/unit standard is at the level you require. Is the training intended for basic incident investigations, such as ordinarily encountered in an organisation, or must it be more advanced due to the type of risks in the organisation?

“Units standards for incident Investigations are registered at NQF Levels 2, 3 and 5 and address the incident investigation required for different levels of complexity. Try and match your training to the anticipated level of complexity of anticipated investigations.

“Of course, the best investigators are those with specific experience in the field where the incident took place. Asking a person from the food industry to investigate a heavy industry incident simply does not make sense. Also required is experience in investigations; therefore it would be important to give qualified but inexperienced investigators the opportunity to assist experienced investigators, so that they may also acquire the experience.”

He adds that incident investigators must have an array of skills to be competent in their duties. “They should understand the theory and principles of incident causation, be competent in risk assessments, be able to construct event timelines, be able to reconstruct incident scenes, and be adept at gathering information, including questioning/interview techniques and problem-solving and data analysis techniques.

“If the investigator does not have these skills, the chances are good that he or she may miss vital pieces of information or relationships and simply look at the incident superficially and not get to the real root cause of the incident. This will result in corrective actions implemented that do not address the real problem and end up being a waste of time and effort.”

Other roadblocks to overcome

“The OHS sector is facing real challenges in the current climate of the Covid-19 pandemic, as are most other disciplines. With more people working from home and rationalisation due to operational requirements, OHS practitioners have also lost their jobs. This has led to OHS practitioners looking at improving their marketability by taking more OHS courses.”

Advantage ACT, which administers all SHEQ training as a subsidiary of BBF SHEQ Services, was able to help with that to some extent, as its training is now also available virtually, and the company has also expanded its distance education offering. “Both of these methods are more cost effective to learners as well as more accessible,” Joubert says. 

“Covid-19 is still a very real threat in workplaces and is expected to remain so for a long time. Advantage ACT/BBF SHEQ Services run training courses focused on that specifically, making sure the latest versions of governmental directives are included.”

The company offers a standard, accredited, incident investigation course based on Unit standard 259617. “This is the entry-level unit standard,” Joubert explains. “Learners wanting to go for more advanced training can attend Root Cause Analysis training; if more advanced skills are required, training based on the higher levels unit standards and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) modules can also be provided on special request.

“Advantage ACT/BBF SHEQ services also provide short courses, covering hazard identification and risk assessment, inspections, legislation and emergency management. If required, an incident investigator development programme can be developed for particular clients addressing their specific needs.”

Covid-19: not just negative news

“There are two main things happening in the industry in general, and in OHS specifically, that bode well for OHS training,” Joubert says.

“With all its negative impact, Covid-19 has highlighted health and safety in the workplace and has created an opportunity to bring more OHS training to a more receptive market. This will not only have an immediate impact, but will have lingering results post-pandemic.

“The Department of Employment and Labour has embarked on a process of revising OHS legislation, including the OHS Act as well as its Regulations, which not only creates new training opportunities, but fresh awareness. This should lead to improved compliance and also safer and healthier workplaces.”

What does this all mean for incident investigation?

“Incident investigation is one of the core functions of an OHS practitioner, who should therefore be competent in this field. A successful investigation, followed by implementation of the correct corrective measures, could prevent similar incidents from recurring. By contrast, a substandard investigation will lead to ineffective corrective measures and similar incidents will just keep repeating themselves!”

So, ensure that your incident investigators receive accredited training and tap into the experience of others so that they can use their skills and knowledge to the benefit of all. 

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