Training – get it right!


Experience is no use without knowledge – training may be flawlessly delivered but it’s no use if it is ten years out of date. Knowledge without experience is equally bad – understanding how knowledge is applied in practical situations is almost as important as the knowledge itself.

To help overcome the issues around safety in the Middle East, region-wide action has been taken by governments to encourage director-level responsibility for safety management. They have also applied indirect pressure, tightening existing laws by creating ‘corporate killing’ or ‘corporate manslaughter’ offences, and addressing the concept of the ‘controlling mind’ within the health and safety ethos of a company.

The need for senior executive and board members to become actively involved in safety programmes has been underlined by worrying research: Safety specialists in the UK found that the majority of serious safety failures in the Middle East (amongst other places) are caused by management failure. The European Union says that the current 6,000 deaths in the region each year from work-related accidents are not only the result of carelessness, poor training and negligence but also ‘bad management and incompetence’.

Increasingly companies are ‘biting the bullet’ and sending senior staff on high level training courses. Recently more than 50 directors and managers from Al Futtaim Carillion – a regional leader in design, construction, facilities management and maintenance services through joint ventures in Dubai, Oman and Abu Dhabi – undertook the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health, the NEBOSH National General Certificate – an extremely rigorous health and safety training course, with more than 80% of attendees achieving a credit or a distinction.

Regional differences and requirements

Understanding the specific requirements of a particular region is the bedrock upon which all training must be built. Teaching someone in Bahrain in the same way you teach someone in Birmingham UK is a recipe for disaster. The training provider must understand the cultural and linguistic realities of the area they are working in, and the local practicalities of the industry.

As a safety organisation NEBOSH (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) is beyond reproach. Formed in 1979 as an independent examining board and awarding body, their qualifications are recognised globally and are designed to meet health, safety, environmental and risk management training requirements for both the private and public sectors.

Management need to be able to demonstrate that their worker’s training is credible, realistic and applicable to the real world. A piece of paper from a university no-one has heard of will do them no good at all when they are facing a corporate manslaughter charge.

Developing a safety culture through training

The Middle East is what is described as a ‘relationship driven culture’, a place where personal relationships form the basis of most social and business interaction. Relationship driven cultures are usually collectivist in nature, where the interests, opinions and decisions of the group carry more weight than those of the individual.

Cultures of this kind often have highly developed hierarchical structures that trainers have to be able to work within to achieve the desired outcome, and this can act as a major stimulus in improving working practices.

In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, for example, the legislation on health and safety has been revised so it no longer has the ‘grey areas’ that afflict the laws of other parts of the region. Dubai currently has around 8,000 construction sites and more than 80,000 workers, most of them from outside the country.

During 2008 local inspectors made nearly 30,000 site inspections and found a compliance rate in excess of 75%. This is a good example of the proper application of legislation, training and cultural expectations to make the workforce safer.

In the light of changing world economic circumstances, a widely used theory for accident causation has been given a vital update – by adding a sixth domino to the classic Five Domino Theory.

The Sixth Domino

At a recent conference in Kish, Iran, the Managing Director of British Safety Services (BSS), Pat McLoughlin, unveiled BSS’ new theory on accident and incident causation, as initially set out in 1931 by HW Heinrich.
Heinrich’s traditional 5 Domino Theory on accident causation is the standard model used by health and safety professionals. The theory works on the basis that, if a domino falls, it will be a matter of time before it will knock down the others next to it. This, he says is the way with workplace health and safety, where one undesirable event in the workplace will lead to others, and eventually to an accident.
This theory was further developed by Bird and Loftus in 1976, and includes the influence of management in accident causation. This modified version of the sequence was:
1. Lack of management control (leading to)
2. Basic causes (which give rise to)
3. Immediate causes
4. Accident/Incident
5. Loss/Injury
BSS recognise that in 2010, the domino theory should be updated, and therefore has now developed this process further, showing that there are in fact, six stages of the accident causation process, rather than just the traditional five, placing ‘External Factors’ at the very beginning of the process.
External pressures provide a major impact on any business and should be considered from a health and safety perspective. Issues such as international recession, business environment, low prices and high competition, inheriting staff from previous contractors, and remote locations –all need to be assessed in developing and implementing a health and safety strategy.
Pat said: ‘In today’s fast moving environment, especially with the current financial climate, BSS believe that recognising and managing ‘sixth domino’ is vital to improving performance and standards in the world of Health and Safety.

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