Trained Operators Are Valuable Assets, Not Just a H & S Compliance

CDEnviro Service Manager Ryan Barker explores the advantages of ensuring plant operators and site engineers receive regular and adequate training...

We are all aware of the tight legislative requirements when it comes to onsite safety and the operation of machinery. There is a legal onus on companies to provide adequate frameworks of training to ensure that everyone working is competent for the work they carry out on a daily basis as laid out in The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Part 2 Regulation 9 (1). But what about the other affects that the provision of adequate training can have on both general site operations and your business as a whole?

Very often employers don't recognise the added value of trained operators over and above legal requirements. The primary focus for a company is obviously to provide a safe working environment for employees but other benefits exist and are often undervalued.

In the UK training is required. It has therefore become standard practice to ensure that operators are properly trained to have the experience and knowledge to work safely at all times and part of this basic requirement includes the delivery of onsite inductions for all new individuals to site.
Benefits to the Employer, More than just a tick-box exercise?
Setting aside the tick-box exercise that some believe training is a prerequisite of, adequate job-specific training can lead to substantial benefits for the employer and the workforce. This can include enhancing morale by raising operator confidence, eradicating accidents and work-related injuries, reducing any potential damage to the plant, minimising plant repairs, decreasing downtime and increasing overall plant productivity. These benefits can help to substantially improve overall site processes and ensure smooth operation of the plant.

CDEnviro offer training programmes that can be tailored to a specific company's requirements. The most valuable approach is training conducted onsite within the environment where the operators will be working daily. Moreover, companies who provide tailored plant solutions should understand that your training requirements should reflect this and their programmes should be designed and delivered with this in mind.

Training at an advanced level will allow operators to fully appreciate all the intricacies of the plant in question and how each part affects the overall process. This could focus on optimisation techniques ensuring that individuals have the skills necessary to operate, maintain, optimise and recommission the plant.

When an operator fully understands how their plant operates from the initial feeding of raw material to the stockpiling of the end product, they are aware of the mechanics of the plant and therefore the operational requirements. Raw material is subject to change and as a result of this, the operational requirements need to be modified accordingly. To maximise the commercial value of the product, it is essential that an operator can succinctly identify any change in raw feed and have the specific knowledge to make the necessary plant modifications. Changes to the end products can range from cleanliness, levels of contamination, grade of material and chemical make-up and which can all have an effect on the quality and value of the end product. A trained operator will have the knowledge to implement changes to avoid this.

Moreover, if companies have their own 'in-house expert', this will ultimately save money by avoiding costs associated with on-site labour charges. Trained, competent operators will have the required skills to change complex parts of the plant and diagnose or prevent any potential issues which will ensure maximum uptime.

Refresher Training & Recertification

Although companies today are more meticulous about operator training and credentials for new employees, employers must also consider the benefits of refresher training. Operators who have been previously trained and only require an updated focus on certain aspects of the plant or at perhaps a more advanced level to enhance their knowledge of for example certain maintenance tasks should be afforded the opportunity to build on this. Training of this nature should focus on specific needs where an operator has been found less competent in certain aspects of plant operation rather than the adoption of a blanket approach.

This will result in a more efficient, skilled operator. Not only will the operator in question have improved and enhanced their knowledge of a particular aspect, the employer will have a site operator who is able to perform and operate tasks competently without supervision.

The work here however doesn't end once an operator is trained initially. We strongly recommended that all plant operators' performance must be re-assessed and recertified at least once every three years and this responsibility lies solely with the employer. The purpose of this is to identify any training gaps or requirements that would aid the operators performance and ultimately benefit the company overall. It is imperative therefore that employers certify and document appropriately trained operators and retain a record of their performance. A re-evaluation of a previously trained operator is also necessary where an operator has perhaps been shown to underperform in certain tasks. What is also imperative is that training is delivered for those operators who have been assigned to a different type of plant or the plant has been developed or changed in some respect. Regardless of the area and level of training, relevant copies of certificates should also be issued by the company delivering the training and this should reflect the nature of what was covered.

If training is not delivered, is not adequate or is not properly documented, regulatory bodies can levy fines on a company that is not compliant with the requirements.

Additionally, a company may hire a new plant operator who was recently trained by his or her previous employer. This does not remove the onus however from the current employer, the company is still under a legal obligation to evaluate this new operator to ensure that the appropriate training specific to their plant is suitable and adequate.

Operator Training, A Valuable Investment

Everyone working with plants must be competent for the work they do. They must be properly trained and have the experience and knowledge to work safely. In addition, training will often be required for people taking on new responsibilities or using new features of the plant in question. The benefits of having trained operators are therefore manifestly obvious; the primary benefits are two-fold. Aside from the legal requirements and for a fraction of annual expenditure, training is a cost effective strategy which can result in a high-return on investment through reduced maintenance costs, increased productivity and high quality products.
Training is a critical factor in providing site operatives with an understanding as to how they can support and maximise the achievement of a maximum throughput of material.
Properly trained employees better understand the operation of the plant, resulting in more efficient operations. Training is time and money well spent; it is an investment rather than an expense which can result in fewer injuries and lower insurance premiums. An effective plant operator training programme can maximise uptime and increase productivity, benefiting the employee, the company and the ultimately the customer.

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