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August 7, 2015

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Training: a new approach to keep your workforce safe

By Mary Clarke, CEO, Cognisco

Ensuring your workforce is safe at work is essential in every industry – businesses must have adequate measures in place to protect their staff and that ensure their training programmes are robust.

Often one of the shortcomings of training and assessment in many companies is that they focus on assessing knowledge, rather than how people apply that knowledge on the job. Just because someone has attended a training course, it doesn’t mean they are competent and confident about applying their knowledge in the correct way at work.

Cognsico has been working with companies in the utilities sector to address this issue and has developed a new approach to tackling health and safety.

One of the biggest risks for engineers working in the utilities sector is accidently striking underground cables. An estimated 60,000 underground cable strikes occur every year, which can cause serious injury or death and cost businesses millions of pounds in associated damages and compensation costs.

Reducing the number of cable strikes is an issue that has challenged the utilities sector for many years. Despite deploying a variety of cable avoidance tools, staff training and learning and development programmes, incidents are still happening.

Thames Water is tackling this issue head on. In April this year, it embarked on a five year project that will upgrade all its Victorian waterways and sewage works. This is a huge project with several leading companies providing engineers.

To ensure the safety and compliance of all engineers and contractors working on the project, Thames Water has insisted that all those working on its new waterways upgrade project demonstrate their competence and confidence in relation to cable strike avoidance before starting work.

Eight2O – a leading alliance partner for Thames Water and Optimise, a key contractor to Thames Water – have adopted our Cable Avoidance Evaluation assessment which offers a new approach to traditional cable strike avoidance training based on the latest behavioural training and assessment techniques.

The assessment is designed to improve the competence, knowledge and attitudes of engineers by enabling managers and supervisors to uncover specific training requirements that will improve the competence, performance and safety of individual workers. The aim is to reduce the risk of underground cable strikes and improve safety standards, ensuring compliance with all safety standards set by Thames Water.

The assessment uses situational judgement questions based on realistic scenarios that workers encounter daily and measures the knowledge, competence and confidence of workers in all aspects of the role. The results reveal what people know, as well as their behaviour and attitude towards risk, and highlight any knowledge gaps and specific training needs so they can be addressed.

This unique approach provides managers with visibility of what individuals truly know and understand, any areas of misunderstanding, which if not addressed could compromise their safety or put them or the company at risk. By building up a picture of an individual or teams’ likely behaviour in certain situations and where potential risks lie, a company can plan for remedial action.

This insight enables companies to deliver tailored training and development for every individual, eradicate unacceptable behaviours and to rationalise training spend. Through this innovative assessment, companies will understand who their most competent engineers are and those that might place themselves or the company at risk.   Employees can then be given the essential training interventions needed or even taken off the job until they have improved their competence levels and can demonstrate they are fit to practice.

To date, 1,035 plus individuals from 28 different companies working through Optimise have participated in the Cable Avoidance Evaluation. Optimise is ensuring they have a competent, qualified and compliant workforce and is helping to build a culture of self-development and learning. The company is also helping to safeguard their workers from the risk of cable strikes.

Thames Water is leading the way in putting safety first and it’s anticipated that this technique will make a huge impact in reducing the number of cable strikes on the project. By demonstrating best practice on such a high profile project it’s hoped this will also help raise industry-wide safety standards and lead to a reduction in cable strikes across the whole of the utilities sector. This approach can also be used across other sectors such as construction.

Engineers working through Eight2O and Optimise are taking the assessment programme through our Competency and People Risk Platform my*KNOW, which integrates with a company’s existing learning and development systems.

Through my*KNOW, companies have a single point through which employees and their managers take assessments, see and manage reports, identify priorities, gain access to relevant learning material, collate and present evidence, build and manage teams and competencies and provide reports and analytics back to the business.

Mary Clarke

Mary J Clarke is an accomplished chief executive officer with a proven ability to develop and implement strategies that support business and financial objectives. She has led key initiatives that build a number of business start-ups. She is a respected leader, able to build highly motivated management teams focused on achieving revenue goals. Before joining Cognisco, Ms Clarke spent in excess of twenty years in the IT and Telecommunications industry. She has developed start-up businesses in the UK and Far East, served as a Vice President for Lucent Technologies, formerly A T & T Network Systems a Director of Network Services, Digital Equipment Company Limited and a Director of West Northamptonshire Development Corporation.



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