Legal advice: The right person for the job

Related tags Pub trade Skill Employment

As employers we all want our employees to be competent to do the jobs they are employed to do. In the pub trade we want people to be able to pour...

As employers we all want our employees to be competent to do the jobs they are employed to do. In the pub trade we want people to be able to pour pints, mix cocktails, work the tills, produce food, talk to customers, change barrels - all the tasks which make up the job of running a pub need to be done by someone and for a successful business, those jobs need to be done well.

But is competency more than just being able to do the job? Under Health and Safety Laws and the new Fire Safety Order, and also Food Safety, employers must ensure that their employees are competent to carry out their jobs.

Defining the concept

What does competency mean? Under health and safety law, competency is defined as having the skills, experience and knowledge to do the job properly and safely under all working conditions.

Employers must appoint competent persons to assist them in carrying out their statutory duties - if an employer isn't sure what the law means and what they have to do to comply, how will they know that their employees are doing the job safely?

Both Health & Safety Executive inspectors and environmental health officers (EHOs) are looking more closely at the question of employee competency. If you've had a recent accident investigation by an EHO they have probably wanted to see not only your risk assessments but also your training records.

But showing them the training records might not be enough. They may want to know how you know the person is competent to do the job - what checks you make that they are actually putting their training into practice. After all, we've all sat in very boring training sessions and day dreamed, not really taking in what was being said. Could this be true of your employees? A good competency programme is about:

  • selecting the right people
  • training them
  • assessing them (at various stages).

Some tasks in the pub can be quite hazardous and any employee carrying out that task must be competent - and more than just being competent to serve behind the bar. It might, for example, include:

  • Restarting gas-fired equipment in the kitchen
  • Changing a barrel
  • Line cleaning
  • Connecting and changing LPG cylinders to patio heaters
  • Using step ladders/ladders
  • Managing violent and aggressive customers
  • Working in the cellar
  • Accessing plant and equipment on the roof

How to tackle it

Good employers approach competency by practicing the following:

  • Know all the hazards that could arise in every task, maintenance and emergency
  • Have a good selection process to identify suitable employees for those tasks
  • Know the exact type of person to assign to those tasks
  • Have enough people to always put the right person on the job
  • Identify gaps in a person's knowledge, skill or experience
  • Know the best way to provide the skills and knowledge that people need, such as training courses or on-the-job training
  • Have access to the best trainers and facilities and don't always look for the cheapest
  • Make it easy for people to get the training they need
  • Use actual work instructions and company procedures in their training so it is always bespoke
  • Improve managers' competencies as well as staff's
  • Never make a person do a job if they are not competent to do it
  • Assess whether training has worked
  • Keep good records so they know what training/experiences each person has had and what they need next
  • Change the assessment, selection and training system if it isn't working.

It all sounds too complicated for the average pub? Don't be put off. What I'm really saying is that you need a procedure to ensure that you choose your people well, check out what skills and experience they already have, train them for the job they are going to do and also to provide further knowledge and then monitor and review how they are working.

Then keep good records - not just that they have attended a course but when, who ran it, what was the syllabus, what were the learning outcomes and how you checked out that they were putting the learning into practice.

Related topics Licensing law

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