Staff training: vital for all employers

Effective staff training is a vital component in establishing a committed, professional, efficient workforce. Training specialist Chris Ramshaw is a Director of PEIMF member Hazardous Area Technical Training Ltd (HATT). Here he takes us through a number of key elements for employers to consider.

The cost of taking on new staff can be significant; in terms of making sure they have all the skills necessary to carry out their job both safely and professionally. Not only that, once you have trained your staff, you need to keep them up to date with developments in best practice and periodically refresh their training.

To many small businesses who don’t have dedicated HR or Health and Safety Departments, knowing what to give training on, and when, can be quite confusing. This article hopes to give some guidance on what staff should be given in terms of basic skills training. By no means is it an exhaustive list and due consideration should be given to the type of work that staff are involved in.

Pre-start. Think about the role

Ideally before you take on a member of staff, you should think about the skills that any job role should have. If they are going to be working in an office, they are unlikely going to need an excavator license any time soon! But they will be need to have an understanding of manual handling, whilst we may think aspects such as manual handling are common sense. Over 1 million days each year are lost to injuries resulting from manual handling and muscular skeletal injuries which, if your staff haven’t been trained, on could cost you a significant amount if they decide you were negligent and take you to court.

Once they have accepted an offer of employment, you should request that they provide you with copies of any relevant qualifications they hold, so you can identify what further training requirements they may need once they start. Always make sure that you maintain up to date records of staff training, so that appropriate refresher training can be provided.

Day 1 – One chance to make a first impression

The first day of an employee’s life in your company will more than likely set the tone for their whole experience. It may be cliched, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. If your new starter turns up and you are not ready for them, you don’t have a plan for their induction and you simply whip them off to site without any explanation, they are not going to feel that they are a valued member of the team. The induction day is the best time for a key person within the business to sit down with them. This is where you can set out the vision of the company, what you want them to know about your standards, what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

It is the perfect opportunity to talk them through key policies and procedures. Ideally, staff will be walked through the Risk Assessments and Method Statements of the work they are to undertake. They may be experience personnel, but your company may do things in a specific way which they may need to be briefed on. Staff who feel part of a team are far more likely to stay with a company when things are tough, rather than feeling that they are just a number on a payslip.


Employers are often reluctant to spend significant amounts of money on a new starter, and rightly so. It can be extremely expensive to take on a member of staff, train them up, only to have them not last a week or worse go off to the competition. However, there are some basic courses which any member of staff should have before they start working. Failure to ensure they have some basic skills documented could prove far more costly in the event of an injury.

In my opinion, all staff regardless of their position should have some form of manual handling training. This should be of sufficient quality that it covers all aspects of the discipline, including how to carry out a basic manual handling assessment for themselves. All jobs require some form of lifting, whether it be as simple as moving a box of paper, to lifting and moving heavy curb stones. Anyone working in the maintenance or construction of buildings should also be given asbestos awareness training. Asbestos deaths are still on the increase and nearly all of the major clients and SSIP schemes will want to see staff having annual asbestos awareness courses. If they are going to be using any form of angle grinder, or cut off saw type machinery, they should also undergo abrasive wheels training.

Safety passport training

Whilst not a legal requirement as such, all the major companies in the industry will expect staff to hold a current valid passport. In some cases, staff may not be permitted to be working on site without one. Alternatively, it may be possible to have them work under ‘competent staff holding passports’ while you assess whether or not the employee is going to stay with you. If they don’t hold a passport you should always inform your client, and discuss this with them to make sure they are happy for staff not holding a passport to be working on their sites.

Confined space training

If your staff are going to be getting into chambers and opening tanks, then realistically they should receive some form of confined space training. Some clients will class chambers greater than 1.2m deep as confined spaces and therefore should be a two-man job with tripod and winches etc. Other clients will simply say that if you are working below ground level it is a confined space. It really depends on the client and the facility that you find yourself working in. In most situations, a one-day confined space course will suffice for most chamber works. If you will be accessing the tanks themselves, or you are going to be working in high-risk environments, then a two-day course may be more appropriate.


If your employees are going to be driving, then it is crucial that you get permission from your staff to check their licenses out with DVLA. Simplistically, if you are looking at employing a member of staff and they already have 9 points on their licence, this could be a red flag. It could have been that they were just very unlucky, or it could be a sign that they may need extra coaching when it comes to driving your assets around the country. In addition, if they were to receive a further 3 points and lose their licence, potentially they may not inform you – as they know it could affect their employment status. Ideally, employers should be checking licenses quarterly or at least bi-annually.Fire marshall training

Another area to be considered for staff working in the office and on site. The numbers of trained staff will obviously be based on any fire risk assessment that may have been conducted, but realistically you should have at least one trained person on site at any given time. This should ensure that, should a fire break out, there is someone on site who can organise their colleagues.

First aid training

The faster someone receives first aid, the more likely they are to make a full recovery. The cost of emergency first aid training can be as little as £50 per person, and it could be the difference between life and death. Seemingly completely healthy people have been known to drop down for no reason onsite, so it is essential that those working on site know what to do to help.

Having a combination of staff trained in either three day or one day emergency first aid will significantly help the business, should an incident occur. The exact number of trained first aiders and the types of equipment required should always be based on a first aid risk assessment conducted by a competent person.

Refresher courses

All training should be refreshed on a regular basis. The theory behind refresher training, is that skills not used very often should be refreshed more often than those regularly used. Some training certifications come with fixed periods, ranging from 2 to 5 years. Other skills may not have an official expiration date, so it is good practice to refresh any training after a period of no more than 3 years. This is to make sure all aspects of the skill are refreshed, as legislation may have changed or something which was previously best practice may have been altered. As always you should discuss training requirements with competent training suppliers.

Whether or not you choose online or classroom training will depend on the skills involved, as well as personal preferences. The merits of the different modes of delivery have previously been discussed in INSITE and can be found via the PEIMF website.

While training can be expensive, by investing in your staff you are showing that you are committed to them and that you value their skills and safety. In some cases it may be possible to have arrangements in place, whereby if staff leave before a given time frame you can recoup the costs from their final salary. This should be discussed with HR professionals and any policy should be fully explained to staff in advance of the training.

Many of the online courses outlined here, such as manual handling, abrasive wheels and asbestos awareness, along with many other course can be found at

Alternatively if you wish to discuss any other aspects of the training of your staff, including SPA passports, please contact Chris Ramshaw at HATT Ltd on 07484 517059 or and we will be happy to help where we can.

Manual Handling

Article featured image: click to enlarge

Go back

Return to Industry Articles