Elevating the importance of safety and best practice in hazardous area training

Elevating the importance of safety and best practice in hazardous area training

An Interview with Matt Taylor, Hazardous Area Training Manager at Alderley

A year ago Alderley established a CompEx Training Centre at its base in Wickwar near Bristol to bring millions within a short drive for best-in-class tuition for those working in explosive environments.

CompEx training focuses on educating electrical and mechanical engineers, technicians, and inspectors working in explosive environments. CompEx was devised to ensure that incidents like the Piper Alpha North Sea oil platform disaster in the 1980s never happened again.

1. Why did you decide to set up a CompEx training centre at Alderley?

The answer to that is very simple – there was previously no hazardous training within easy access of the South West, and arguably much of the Midlands. We wanted to make hazardous area training accessible to everyone in the South West but provide people with another option for UK training that was close to the Midlands, Wales and South of England.

While Alderley is predominantly known for its work across the global energy sector, we wanted to provide learning and development opportunities for everyone working in hazardous environments to improve safety across industries.

Consequently, our tailored CompEx training programme aims to improve awareness and understanding of the risks in hazardous environments, what to look out for, and ensure that course participants recognise the right standards for compliance to ensure safety – e.g. the correct steps to DSEAR (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002).

2. Who typically attends the course?

Over the past year we’ve welcomed a wide range of people on our training programme. This includes people from all levels of their career – meaning early career starters to those new to working in a potentially explosive environment through to qualified and skilled engineers looking to improve their understanding of hazards. We believe that there is a constant requirement to update skills and mindsets when working in hazardous areas and not just attend courses to comply with the latest standards and local health and safety guidelines.

One thing that has really impressed us this past year is the fact that many people attending our course, which has surpassed 120 people, are not just from engineering disciplines but come from many different professions that work in and around hazardous environments.

In addition, we’ve welcomed participants from all over the world to our course especially from mainland Europe and the Gulf – our course isn’t just for those working in the UK.

3. What are the benefits of attending the training centre?

We believe that course participants gain several key benefits from attending our course. Firstly, everyone who attends receives an internationally recognised training qualification – CompEx – that demonstrates key competences in explosive environments. But the definition of hazardous areas is wide, so we provide training for all those who work in environments with potentially explosive atmospheres including gas and vapours, dusts, and chemicals. This covers industries such as waste and water treatment, food production, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas distribution, and even nuclear.

Secondly, all of the training is delivered by experienced engineers who still operate actively in the field at challenging facilities. They therefore know what to look out for and pass on this information and their insights to course participants.

Thirdly, the course aims to blend theory with real-world, hands-on practical examples for a wholistic and immersive training experience. We aim to challenge course participants and not let them take a metaphorical ‘back seat’ while we do all the talking.

4. What’s most surprised you about the course and its participants?

The most surprising aspect of the course to date has been the variety of disciplines represented by the course participants. Yet, this has been a real positive though because having people from different professional backgrounds means that there are always new perspectives that are shared throughout the course.

We learn how hazards apply in different sectors and what it means to our participants across their roles regardless of whether they work on site security, or are cleaning supervisors, apprentices, senior personnel managers, site technicians and engineers. The bottom line remains that all course participants want to know how to improve their understanding of safety.

Another surprise for us has been the high demand for the ExF Foundation course that has been of particular interest for our international candidates. This reinforces the importance of localising critical training to make it accessible to all.

5. What’s the feedback from the course participants and have they found the course useful?

We’ve been getting great feedback about the course. Participants have mentioned the location and facilities as real plus points. This is important as the course lasts a week and those attending stay in the local Bristol area for the duration of the training.

A clear sign that the course is doing well is the number of referrals we get from those who’ve attended the week at Alderley to other colleagues.

But we’re not resting on our laurels. We’re always looking to improve and embed feedback into our courses and the centre itself. For example, we’ve taken feedback to tailor the work environment to participants’ needs and look to share pertinent examples among the group.

This collaborative learning structure originated from our clients’ feedback and has been highlighted as a real positive in subsequent courses.

6. What plans (if any) do you have to extend the training?

Good question! We aim to introduce further courses to our CompEx training centre soon to improve accessibility to wider areas of hazardous training such as Ex05-06 (dust environments), Ex11 (mechanical) and other courses such as Safety Passports.

We’re also going to look to grow our CompEx offer internationally by replicating what we’ve done in Wickwar in other regions including the Gulf, where Alderley has operated for over two decades and where we have an established brand name among some of the leading global energy companies.

7. What are the next steps for further training if and when participants complete the course?

CompEx provides a roadmap for further progression and for further structured courses, from ExF Foundation for an introduction and awareness to hazardous areas through to Ex14 for Responsible Persons who oversee site-wide compliance with relevant standards such as DSEAR, and everywhere in between. We should all also bear in mind that training needs to be refreshed every five years to keep in with the latest industry standards and best practice guidance.

8. What are the practical elements of the course and is it all practical learning?

All our CompEx courses have a strong awareness raising element with underpinning theory to make sure the safety concepts are understood. This is coupled with practical learning for the ExF+ course where delegates are able to apply their learning by making-off glands connecting to a junction box, and in the Ex01-04 installation and inspection course where there is a practical assessment using our on-site practical bays.

These bays simulate scenarios for different hazardous locations and equipment. They provide participants with an opportunity to understand safety concepts through installation and inspection within a simulated environment.

However, we discuss practical applications in all our courses to help bring the theory to life and share examples across the delegates for collaborative learning rather than delivering a lecture.

Matt Taylor can be contacted directly about CompEx training at Alderley at: training@alderley.com.  Alternatively, complete our contact form and a member of our training team will get back to you asap.