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PT Notes

Managing Competency for Process Safety

PT Notes is a series of topical technical notes on process safety provided periodically by Primatech for your benefit. Please feel free to provide feedback.

The ability of personnel to perform tasks according to expectations, or the competency of personnel, is crucial to every organization because of the role it plays in ensuring tasks are carried out satisfactorily and safely. It is particularly important for the safety-critical tasks that are part of process safety.

If competency is not managed, poor performance and accidents may result. Indeed accidents have occurred when aspects of competency were absent. Competency management is particularly important when an organization relies heavily on the skills, knowledge and capabilities of its personnel, such as in the process industries. The importance of competency is compounded in the face of the re-engineering, downsizing, and multi-tasking that occurs. Personnel are often expected to take on a wider range of tasks with less supervision thus increasing the need to manage competency effectively.

Competency implies appropriate qualifications, training, skills, knowledge, understanding, experience, physical and mental capabilities, fitness for duty, behavior and attitudes in order to be able to perform tasks according to defined performance standards. Often assumptions of competency are made based on the adequacy of experience or training, possession of qualifications, or the availability of a procedure. Not only may such assumptions be incorrect, but they do not capture all the key aspects of competency.

Competency management should be planned, proactive and systematic. It involves:

  • Identification of competency requirements
  • Selection and recruitment of personnel
  • Assessment of competency
  • Certification of competency
  • Maintaining, reassessing and monitoring competency

Competency management should be part of an organization’s overall management system. It should apply to personnel from the top to the bottom of the organization and include contractors and others who perform work within the organization.

This topic is addressed in the articles:

Implement a competency management system for process safety, Hydrocarbon Processing, 95 (7), pages 77 - 79, July 2016.

The meaning and importance of process safety competency, Process Safety Progress, Volume 35, Issue 2, pages 171–175, June 2016.

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