When I gained my D32 - D33 assessor qualification with The GTC over ten years ago, little did I realise that, whilst I was meeting the needs of my trainee at that time, I was then going to go on and assist over ten more trainees with their NVQ's. As I remember it, the assessor award was merely formalising my existing skills - that of assessing the learner, something I do on a daily basis.
I came through the old City & Guilds phases system and, whilst the 'chalk and talk' system worked for me, it was clear that there were those around me who found it difficult - and for a number of reasons. Some suffered dyslexia, some just weren't academics, whilst others were simply distracted by the previous night's entertainment! For these reasons the National Vocational Qualification was a real step forward for the people who expressed their skills practically.
Now, don't get me wrong, the NVQ system has its weaknesses and, whilst the colleges do their very best to maintain a good standard of knowledge delivery, there is a huge responsibility on the trainee and, of course, the work based trainer/assessor, in this case - me.
As an example, if I do not make time for the trainee to learn, or if he/she displays no enthusiasm for the knowledge both myself and the college are trying to deliver, it all falls down - often leading to the trainee 'dropping out' or, even worse, leaving the golf course/club disillusioned.
It is very much a three way partnership - the trainee, the college work based assessor and the golf course manager. Should either one of us not 'sign up' to the training agreement, the system fails. It is fair to add that in the instance there is no real buy-in from the course manager or head groundsman, the trainee can still obtain the necessary information to qualify, but it does make the process onerous, not to mention the lack of opportunity for the trainee to have his/her practical skills assessed properly, all leading to a weak qualification.
Let's look at the value of the NVQ and, more specifically, level 2 sportsturf.
The NVQ level 2 sportsturf qualification is aimed at delivering the fundamentals of greenkeeping and sportsturf maintenance - an introduction to the world of weeds, grasses, mowing and simple agronomics. It could be argued, more importantly, that it involves health and safety in the workplace and first aid. Whatever your thoughts, it delivers a range of education ideally suited for the situation and, therefore, should be considered as very important.
So how do you deal with the situations when you're too busy to share your experience with the trainee, or the trainee is not displaying any enthusiasm for the training? It's simple really. It requires a level of discipline.
Two questions. Would you send out a complete novice to cut your greens with no experience, training or guidance? Would you employ an NVQ level 2 greenkeeper/groundsman who displayed no knowledge of the role at interview?
If your answer to the above two questions is no, then you already understand what your responsibilities are to both the trainee and as the course manager or head groundsman.
Throughout my years as a qualified assessor and course manager I have assisted many trainees at both NVQ level 2 and 3 and, similarly, I have interviewed people with both levels of qualification. In both instances I have met problems.
It is a fact that not all trainees display enthusiasm for the education, and recoil at the apparent 'return to school' but, as with requests for them to rake bunkers correctly or cut straight lines on the greens, I also insist that they put a similar amount of effort into continuing their personal development. And, as with the high standards I expect on the golf course, I attach the same level of drive into ensuring my trainees meet the NVQ requirements.
As already suggested, on the flip side, I have had people in front of me at interview who have barely scraped through and I have been given all kinds of excuses as to why their knowledge wasn't up to scratch. It is, therefore, fair to suggest that I wouldn't want any of my qualified greenkeepers to attend an interview at another club only to be considered as 'unqualified'.
So, why do I take training so seriously? Firstly I need to share with you an experience which happened during my second week with my current club. I was called to an incident that had taken place on the road between the hotel and golf clubhouse, where one of my trainees had taken a corner too fast whilst driving a golf harvesting utility vehicle. The lad tipped the thing on its side which propelled him through the steel meshing and windscreen leaving him unconscious and with a four inch cut to his forehead, deep enough to see his skull.
Over the next seven days the HSE wanted to know how I had let it happen, his father wanted to know how I had let it happen and, needless to say, I asked myself how I could have let it happen. As part of the investigation I was asked to produce enough due diligence to absolve mine and the company's blame.
Whilst we had done just enough to protect the lad with 'reasonable training', it is fair to add that there was a lot more we could have done which was perfectly underlined in the letter I received from The HSE and Local Environmental Health.
Okay, my motivation to deliver thorough training wasn't to meet the needs of the trainee, rather to help me sleep at night, but the incident focused my mind and, from that episode, a widely appreciated training programme was put in place.
Working closely with Myerscough College I started to design a training manual which identified the many and varied tasks that make up the trainee greenkeeper's role. Everything from switching and raking to cutting and topdressing, all with a focus on health and safety plus best practice.
The trainee would be given the manual as part of their induction and, with the use of an index sign off sheet, would progress through the different roles and duties in the form of a Standard Operating Procedure format. I anticipated this taking approximately twelve tp eighteen months.
The system was working very well until I received a follow up visit from the Local Environmental Health people who commended me on my proactive approach to training and procedure, but asked how I continually assessed performance. I, like many, suggested that I can tell whether a job is being undertaken correctly or not, but this wasn't what they were asking of me.
They were looking for continued adherence to good practice and continual professional development, which was a valid requisite. From this we developed a simple CPD sheet; we call it the Skills Appraisal Form & Evaluation. (S.A.F.E.). The SAFE sheet evaluates that the trainee can:
1. Prepare for the task/duty/role correctly
2. Undertake the task/duty/role safely
3. Can identify risks and faults and report them clearly
This, the trainee demonstrates almost exactly the same as he would to a D32/D33 (A1) assessor. The only difference is the trainee is regularly required to meet the required standard, thus maintaining standard and health and safety best practice.
Whilst this all sounds quite onerous, we have, with a disciplined approach, met the training needs of the trainee, continued to maintain a healthy, safe environment and, with the enrolment of the trainee on to the NVQ Level 2 Sportsturf qualification, have uploaded all their CPD SAFE sheets to the online Myerscough College ePortfolio (Onefile), which has already taken my current trainee to 35% of his qualification, with more uploading to come.
It is fair to suggest that I have met my training responsibilities the wrong way round, especially as it took the father of one of my trainees to remind me of those responsibilities. I certainly wouldn't suggest you go down the same path as I did but, what is clear, if you take your responsibilities seriously and encourage your trainees to complete their work, give them your time as well as time to learn, they will become better greenkeepers or groundsmen. They will be safe at work and you will sleep peacefully at night!
A Tutor's View
Jonathan Knowles of Myerscough College says that vocational qualifications are strongly bonded to competence.
Vocational qualifications are strongly bonded to the legal term - competent. As an employer you MUST be able to 'prove' that everyone in the team is competent to do the jobs they do - especially working unsupervised. If you can 'prove' it, then you are in step with the regulations.
This 'proof', is the crux of the matter. What is the 'proof' that greenkeeper X can safely use a mower on a steep bank and, as an employer/supervisor you are continually evaluating greenkeeper Xs' competence on the task of mowing banks?
PUWER '98 (The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) is very clear about the employer's duties and the use of equipment and machinery. For starters, employers are not allowed to let employees use equipment/machinery unless they are trained and have proven to be competent.
The message I've certainly picked up loud and clear is that NVQs and health and safety are very closely entwined which, I agree, sounds obvious out loud. Nevertheless, how many actually put what Jim Brown is saying into practice.
Many head greenkeepers will pull down a dusty and damp ring binder, with half a dozen loose sheets, listing all the equipment they have with a signature from the line manager and greenkeeper as 'proof' they have been found competent. Is this showing 'due diligence' for health and safety? Not really, is it? It's lazy.
With some methodical thinking it has a logical conclusion. As an A1 or D32/33 assessor it should be within your capabilities to construct your own training records. Creating these records is based on your experience, the required organisational procedures and the standard practice. (The standard practice or 'National occupational standards' for any given level is freely accessed from the NPTC website.)
The assessor can construct a training manual based on these factors. Additionally, if these in-house training sheets show assessment planning (in Jim's case the S.A.F.E appraisal system he uses), and the records of competence that the assessor has created are readily transferable and reference to the national occupational standards from the NPTC, then speak to your trainees' internal verifier as, in theory, these records can, and should, be used as evidence in an NVQ portfolio, thereby 'proving' competence for qualification and inline with regulations. Two birds, one stone!
Moreover, the continuing appraising and evaluating of skills beyond proving competence is showing continual professional development. Again, health and safety best practice.
This method of inducting, appraising and training staff puts the employer in the driving seat with what the team must do and what they must know and understand. This mentoring, using the national occupational standards to create procedures, is one of the reasons they were designed - for employers to use.
Jim's message for having and doing this training/appraising/mentoring is a real wake-up call for anyone who is complacent that it will never happen at their workplace.
As I travel from golf course to golf course, the commonest incident I hear of is rolling machines over and losing control down slopes. Think of the downtime, repair and cost, not to mention possible injuries. Will the insurance cover it if you haven't got the correct records? Do you fancy an in-depth HSE investigation at your organisation?
Use the regulations and the NVQ standards as a vehicle for implementing some quality training systems. It can be a flexible system that integrates within the NVQ and turns the 'not yet achieved' status to 'working towards'. Then, the 'achieved' status will continue to professionally develop (CPD). This is an opportunity for the employer/on-site assessor to instill skills, and possibly avoid accidents, improve on quality and generally bring at bit of buzz and optimism into the sheds.
NVQ standards for amenity horticulture level 2 and 3 include landscaping and sports turf etc. and are available online at http://www.nptc.org.uk - look under NVQ's, Amenity Horticulture (0329) Level 2 & 3, landscaping standards
PUWER to the people!
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations requires users of work equipment to carry out risk assessment
PUWER '98 has been in force since December 5th 1998 and, still, over one third of small businesses have not heard of the legislation. Here, we'll attempt to simplify the regulations and following actions that must be taken to comply.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires users of work equipment to carry out risk assessment and provide work equipment that is suitable for its intended task and can be used without putting persons at risk.
The regulations cover any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not) - effectively it is anything used at work.
The 1998 regulations (updating the original 1992 regulations) introduce requirements to ensure that, for reasons of health and safety, inspections are carried out:
• After installation and before being put into service for the first time; or after assembly at a new site or in a new location to ensure that it has been installed correctly and is safe to operate.
• After work equipment has been exposed to any conditions causing deterioration, which is liable to cause a dangerous situation.
• At suitable intervals and each time that exceptional circumstances have occurred that are liable to jeopardise the safety of work equipment. The results of these inspections have to be documented and kept until the third subsequent inspection is recorded.
The regulations make it an offence to allow work equipment to leave an employer's undertaking or, if obtained from another undertaking, be used, unless it is accompanied by physical evidence that the last inspection has been carried out.
Five Safety Steps
• Locate potential hazards.
• Who could be injured by this and how?
• Should further precautions be put in place?
• Make a record of the risk assessments made.
• Review the assessments and revise them if necessary.
Author: Mark Smailes MIOSH
Further info: www.puwer.org
Q: Does PUWER apply to second hand machines?
A: PUWER applies to ALL machines new and old alike.
Q: If the machine has a CE Mark do I need to do a PUWER assessment?
A: Yes, PUWER regulations take in to account not only the machine but also the lighting, stability etc.
Q: How often do we need to do a PUWER assessment?
A: This depends on the use of the machine and should be decided by a competent person. If the machine is modified, moved etc., then a PUWER assessment should take place.
Q: Who can carry out a PUWER inspection?
A: A competent person with the relevant skills and training.
Q: What is the definition of a Competent Person?
A: Legislation itself does not prescribe what attributes a competent person must have, however, the health and safety executive (HSE) offers some guidance in various publications.
A Competent Person can be defined as "A person who has such appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the equipment to be thoroughly examined or inspected as will enable them to detect defects or weaknesses and to assess their importance in relation to the safety and continued use of the equipment".
A competent person will normally be from an outside independent organisation that has sufficient training and experience in examination and inspection of equipment.