Competence development

01 October 2016

Executive Committee Member for District 3 Andy Hourigan reports on ASLEF’s new competence development plan best practice document.

competence dev bookletFeatured in the ASLEF Journal, October 2016, pp6

ASLEF’s competence development plan best practice document, which has not been reviewed for eight years, has been refreshed.There have been two previous versions – and most TOCs and FOCs embraced the framework – but, for the first time, it is being shared with specialists and industry leaders who have contributed.

The evolution of competence development has caused much angst among drivers. There is still a bitter taste from the bad old days when companies abused a points system to condemn drivers and, ultimately, manoeuvre them out of their job. Companies attached discipline to safety of the line events as a way of controlling standards. Drivers were given points for unrelated matters such as not wearing ties, or name badges, or ‘walking aggressively’. There were some real horror stories which would give Stephen King a run for his money.

Slowly, we started to turn the development of drivers into a more scientific practice which involved actually looking at incident identification and concentrating on issues by way of corrective action plans.This proved that the way some companies automatically disciplined drivers was outdated. Nevertheless, it was tough to convince the industry that a more focused and investigatory approach to an incident should invest in the driver,rather than edge him or her out of the job prematurely. If there are operational events, drivers need a support mechanism to develop and restore competency in a fair, focused and consistent way.

The policy consists of four key stages: investigation;identification; assessment; restoration of competence and review.

Competence is defined by the RSSB as ‘being adequately knowledgeable and skilled to be able to perform a specific act or task to an agreed level or standard.’ In the new guidelines, it is recognised that a CDP is not always required if there has been an operational event. And there are some which we feel should not mean a driver is automatically placed on an action plan.

Violations are treated under a very different procedure.

The CDP process is not a method of disciplining a driver and should be used to regain a driver’s competence and confidence. If a driver has conformed to the rule book, and there is no pattern forming, then some of the incidents currently regarded as safety of the line events should not need monitoring. These include station over runs, accepting a wrong route, stopping short of a station, stopping out of course, TPWS intervention within tolerance levels, failure to call, AWS failure to cancel, and DSD activation.

A driver’s CDP should be individual, and tailored to the driver’s requirements, not lazily constructed as an off the shelf fix. It has to be relevant, dealing with identified contributing factors. Monitoring should be reasonable, relevant and agreeable and not automatically involve managers riding out with drivers or OTMR downloads, and should be for no longer than two (instead of the current three) years as there is no evidence of benefit from that extra year.

ASLEF Competence Development Process booklet

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