A speaker's perspective on the Autumn Seminar from Dr Melanie Taylor from the University of Manchester

The programme was put together well to showcase individual universities' schemes and programmes to develop a competency development framework for safety advisors in local and central roles; to plan and deliver a training needs analysis; to develop and deliver a training strategy; to research the benefits and drawbacks of moving to on-line delivery of training and some practical ways of improving engagement during training by getting 4 delegates to stand on one leg (there is a connection to manual handling, honest).

Speakers from outside the sector advocated coaching, and the benefits of blended learning were illustrated by reference to learning a new skill of ballroom dancing. A common thread was to question what we are trying to achieve and how to do it in an efficient and effective manner.

It is an obvious truth that there is a lot more to competency than attending traditional health and safety training courses, but having a string of courses to one's name is still a widespread approach amongst those moving into such a role - and their managers. These courses provide us with the knowledge we need, but don't necessarily change attitude or behaviours.

For safety practitioners attending courses, there is very little content about the skills we need to apply that knowledge more effectively.

Presentations on such a wide range of topics served to illustrate the need for the logical and integrated approach that USHA's working group is beginning to shape, and which seeks to addresses this "soft skills" gap for safety professionals, for managers and for others. The group's work is evolving from having a very general remit under the broad heading of "training", into a more focused set of objectives covering the many facets of safety practitioners' training activities and their own competency. The task ahead is considerable and will not be delivered quickly but this is an encouraging start.

Dr Melanie J Taylor
Head of Safety Services
University of Manchester