Competence regime can improve h&s management

In this special contribution WAMITAB explains how the new competence regime has the potential to improve health and safety practices

Recent guidance* issued by the Environment Agency on technical competence for operators of waste facilities will have an impact on local authority operators of some civic amenity sites.

For sites which accept up to 5,000 tonnes per annum at Level 3 vocational qualification and Certificate of Technical Competence (COTC) is only required. For sites that accept greater than 5,000 tonnes per annum, operators will need to gain Level 4 vocational qualification and COTC ( a transitional provision was provided in the 2003 regulations allowing managers two years from 1 April 2003 to gain the new award if required).

This move, from a "supervisory" to a "managerial" level of competence is significant since it reflects the increased perception of risk associated with the broad range of wastes handled/recycled at such sites.

Improving h&s practices

Increasing the level of competence required will improve health and safety practices, as the level 4 vocational qualification contains a mandatory unit focussed specifically on improving health and safety. This unit, Unit 3: Monitor procedures to control risks to health and safety, is for people who have been allocated responsibility for checking and co-ordinating health and safety matters as part of their responsibilities for managing a waste management facility. The unit is about the competence required to ensure that statutory and workplace procedures for controlling risks to health and safety are being carried out. This involves ensuring that health and safety procedures are being followed within work areas and appropriate action is undertaken to deal with risks that arise from workplace hazards. Although this unit is normally achieved as part of the full vocational qualification, Unit 3 can be achieved as a "stand-alone" unit, as a vocabulary related qualification for improving h&s practices in the workplace. The statutory competence qualifications which form part of this new regime are complemented by a wider range of other "non-statutory" WAMITAB qualifications.

These relate to services provided by local authority employees including refuse collection, kerbside recycling, street cleaning etc. Each of these vocational qualifications contains a mandatory unit entitled, Contribute to the maintenance of a healthy and safe working environment. To achieve competence for this unit an employee must be able to demonstrate that they use working methods and techniques that comply with organisational (local authority) requirements and safe working practices, show that they are able to recognise and report unsafe operating conditions and be able to identify risks.

Collectively, WAMITAB's competence qualifications will play an increasingly important role in raising awareness of health and safety issues. They also have the potential to improve service delivery, to minimise risks/liabilities and to reduce the overall costs of accidents at work.

Note: Local authority holders of CoTC for Civic Amenity site operations (or their sub-contractors) should check with their Environment Agency Officer to ensure that they comply with the latest guidance. Any queries relating to CoTC or the non-statutory qualifications should be addressed to WAMITAB. *Technical Competence for Operators of Authorised Waste Facilities, Environment Agency, July 2004.


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