Competency going to waste

9th March 2011

Golds linnemann



NQA's Catherine Golds and Max Linnemann tell IEMA about the the assessment body's new waste management standard.

Much is made of personal and professional competency in the environmental profession.

Employers are, quite rightly, told that to employ individual practitioners who have been recognised as “professionally competent” is the pinnacle of best practice. But does a competent practitioner make for a competent organisation? And how far does individual competency really go in a high-impact sector?

Catherine Golds, head of NQA, the leading assessment, verification and certification body and sponsor of IEMA’s 2010 Environment and Business conference, says that forward-thinking organisations should now be aiming for a “holistic corporate competency approach”, using a revolutionary new management system.

In April 2008, the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 (since amended) came into force, which specify that all operators who require an environmental permit demonstrate technically competent management of their sites.

Until recently, the only method available to organisations was the Certificate of Technical Competency (CoTC).

Following the waste management industry’s request to develop an alternative method to the CoTC, the Competence Management System (CMS) was born.

The CMS – approved by Defra and the Welsh Assembly government – is the first management system that deals exclusively with competence and is now available for use by employers.

NQA and EU (Energy & Utility) Skills are currently working on a pilot with a heavy-impact waste organisation, and the benefits of taking a company-spanning attitude to proficiency and recognition, particularly in large waste organisations, are about to be revealed.

“The primary benefit of a CMS is that it allows operators to organise their employees more effectively and productively by deploying them in a way that ensures its operations are technically competent at all times.

"Organisations are afforded more flexibility through controlling their own competence requirements and training internally.

"To have verified competence on a corporate level comes across much better to stakeholders,” says NQA energy and environmental sector manager Max Linnemann.

The CMS takes into account internal and external training and qualifications based on National Occupational Standards.

It will ensure that all individuals on-site, whose work contributes to the conditions of an environmental permit, are competent to carry out their role.

“This could mean that if someone is ill or can’t come into work on a particular day, other members of staff could be legally permitted to cover their role in their absence.

"Under the old CoTC scheme, if there wasn’t someone else with that certificate, they simply couldn’t legally carry out this work,” Linnemann explains.

A CMS is primarily suitable for larger organisations with their often high-impact operations, internal training schemes and large workforces.

At a time when mandatory carbon reporting is being debated and more and more best-practice and legislative requirements are being pressed upon business, what may prove most appealing to these companies about the CMS is that it has been created to fit with other management systems.

Organisations using standards such as ISO 14001 are able to integrate the new CMS easily.

As Golds explains: “As this particular scheme has developed, it is important to take into account that there are other standards that should still be considered, particularly within the waste industry, as what they deal with is often very high risk to the environment.

“Many organisations are already running ISO 14001 programmes, so the fact that a CMS has been considered is very forward thinking. Larger organisations can now enjoy the cost benefits and efficiencies of certifying their organisation to manage waste instead of individual employees, as a result of the CMS. However, NQA are conscious to make sure that there aren’t too many standards in the market place to avoid confusion.”

With its long history of contributing to the writing, defining and launching of environmental standards and providing organisations with reliable frameworks, NQA has been well placed to test and instigate the CMS, particularly alongside other management systems.

For more information on NQA and the CMS click here.

IEMA would like to thank NQA for its valued sponsorship and contribution to the Environment and Business conference in 2010.

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