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Adequate and appropriate supervision?

ImageIt has now become the most common complaint that I get from operatives on training courses;  poor supervision being conducted by a person that simply does not know about the equipment being used and is quite literally incompetent. These operators and users are resigned to never pointing out that the policy is wrong and even putting them at risk for fear of being ‘Carded’ by the person in control of their work activities.

Frequently this is a Health and Safety professional that believes that they know all that they need to because they passed a general Health and Safety course. Put directly, there are some people in a position of supervisory power that are making poor decisions and using their power to implement these decisions beyond and often in opposition to the competent decisions of trained contractors.

Why does this happen so frequently? Why would managers allow these decisions to slow the business down and make it more dangerous? The answer is usually fear and ignorance. The manager is not a health and safety professional and therefore will defer to the qualified expert through fear of being held accountable. The qualified expert will on many occasions make decisions based on their judgment and perception and will tend to err on the side of caution believing that this is the safest way. This leads to potential conflict


but of course the Health and Safety professional can always site regulations to back up his case. Let’s just see what some regulations say about supervision (Control of others work activity).

PUWER 98 Regulation 9 paragraph 2 states-

(2) Every employer shall ensure that any of his employees who supervises or manages the use of work equipment has received adequate training for purposes of health and safety, including training in the methods which may be adopted when using the work equipment, any risks which such use may entail and precautions to be taken.



LOLER 98 Regulation 8 Organisation of lifting operations-


 (1) Every employer shall ensure that every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is –

(a) properly planned by a competent person;

(b) appropriately supervised; and

(c) carried out in a safe manner.


A MEWP (Scissor lift or Cherry Picker) is a piece of Lifting equipment.

Work at Height Regulations 05-

Organisation and planning


Regulation 4. – (1) Every employer shall ensure that work at

height is –

(b) appropriately supervised; and(a) properly planned;

(c) carried out in a manner which is so far as is

reasonably practicable safe,

and that its planning includes the selection of work

equipment in accordance with regulation 7.

Further the Work at Height Regulations 05 state-


5. Every employer shall ensure that no person

engages in any activity, including organisation, planning

and supervision, in relation to work at height or work

equipment for use in such work unless he is competent to

do so or, if being trained, is being supervised by a

competent person.

Regulation 5 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 refers to competence and states that employers should ensure that people engaged in any work at height activity, or using work equipment for that purpose, are competent to do so.

Although ‘competence’ is not defined in the Regulations, HSE has worked with industry to clarify what this means and recommends the definition in Appendix 8 of the Regulations, which state:

‘A competent person is a person who can demonstrate that they have sufficient professional or technical training, knowledge, actual experience, and authority to enable them to: (1) carry out their assigned duties at the level of responsibility allocated to them (2) understand any potential hazards related to the work (or equipment) under consideration (3) detect any technical defects or omissions in that work (or equipment), recognise any implications for health and safety caused by those defects or omissions, and be able to specify a remedial action to mitigate those implications’.

PASMA Training

PASMA Training

I think I can safely stop there. If you are in charge of people that are building Scaffold Towers get PASMA trained to recognise any dangerous acts, bracing patterns and be competent to inspect the towers. If you are supervising MEWP operators get IPAF Trained (Operator of Manager training will do). Insist on pre use and workplace inspections, provide plates for any potentially soft ground and understand when a harness is a hazard and when it is providing protection. Lastly for this blog Ladders. Don’t ban them, they are inanimate objects. Get Ladder Association training to know when they are appropriate and supervise the competent users to ensure they are used safely.

Very lastly I apologise to the huge numbers of real Safety professionals and Supervisors that have actually had this training and run an effective, efficient, safe site. I am not moaning about you and in fact I applaud you and your good work. I just wish that you were not such a small minority. Vast numbers of incidents would be avoided by decent supervision by competent people so lets encourage people to get competent before they get caught out.


  1. Alan says:

    I enjoy reading you blogs, sensible, straight forward, practical and very informative advice. Supervision is more than ’employee’ management, it is also about ‘task’ management. If you don’t know the task how can you supervise the employee? You have put this across superbly, Well done!

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