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Information, Instruction and Training

Health and Safety legislation makes reference to 'Information, Instruction, Training and Supervision'.  These four elements combine to ensure that people have enough training, experience and knowledge they need to be able to do their work safely.


In Health and Safety terms, 'Competence' is about 'training and experience or knowledge and other qualities'.  Any person who carries out any kind of work – whether an employee, volunteer or a contractor – needs to be competent to do so.

Competency and qualification are not the same thing.

As an example, consider wiring a plug.  The person carrying out the task does not necessarily need to be a qualified electrician, however the person needs to understand what they are doing and how to do it safely.  This includes knowing the colour code, how to make the terminations, how to select the right fuse size and how to ensure the wiring is done so there is a good connection.

Let's consider the four elements of Competency: Training, Experience, Knowledge and Other Qualities.

  1. Training.  This is all about the formal and informal training and instruction that a person has received.  For example, and individual might have gone on a Managing Safely course (run by a local college).  However, not all training needs to be a formal qualification - in fact training and competence are two entirely different things.
  2. Experience.  This is about the amount of time someone has been carrying out a task and the sum of their life experiences.  A young person is at more risk because they have less experience, although someone with much more experience could take short cuts because they become complacent.
  3. Knowledge.  This is about not only the specific knowledge relating to safety, but that of the work being undertaken.  This is more than the knowledge needed to pass a training course, and includes knowledge about 'the way things are done here', which is especially important when undertaking Risk Assessment.
  4. Other qualities.  Often these are things that cannot be quantified easily, but cover such things as attitude and aptitude.  A person who undertakes Risk Assessment should have a balanced view of risk and make good decisions about what should be done without being over-zealous.

In the case of a contractor, it is important to check their competencies before they start work.  For example, a roof worker needs to understand the risks and precautions needed when working at height.  This can be evidenced through trade memberships, references and discussions with the contractor.


Information can vary from manufacturer's manuals, instruction sheets, signs and similar.  The information can be from an external source (such as from the manufacturer of a piece of equipment in their operation and maintenance instructions) or be produced for a specific task.

Signs can sometimes be classified in this category.  However, like all forms of information, it is often the case that it is not read, understood and followed.  Just supplying information alone has limited impact as, given the choice, most people would not read it, let alone do anything with it!

Signs are usually only used when all other possibilities have been exhausted, or are used simply to re-enforce a message that has been given by other means.  Only a few people read and follow signs, so using these can prove to be a fruitless exersise


The next step from Information is Instruction. This is a slightly more formal approach where one individual instructs one or more people how to undertake a specific task.

An example of a one-to-one instruction would be a caretaker telling a new volunteer how the lawnmower works and what needs to be done when mowing the lawn, along with the safety precautions that need to be taken.

A one-to-many instruction might be a 10-minute briefing given to the Sunday School leaders by the minister about what to do if the fire alarm sounds in Sunday School.

Instruction is usually less formal than classroom training sessions, and is often more likely to be specific to a particular place or task.  It is not a specific training course, and is not lead by a specialist, but many roles and functions within a Church or Place of Worship would require that the person knows what they should be doing and how to do it safely.


This is usually more formal, such as a classroom training course on Risk Assessment.  Usually courses would be certified (and a copy of the certificate would be kept on file for future reference).

An example of training would be a fire extinguisher use course that has been organised with the local fire extinguisher company.  The course ends with a simple, multiple-choice test and participants who pass are given a certificate.

Some courses are 'accredited' which can be a useful benefit to ensure that the training received is of sufficient quality.  In the case of first-aid courses, the course has to be approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) but many other courses are accredited by college or other qualification providers.


People who undertake any form of work need to be supervised to ensure that the work is done safely.  The frequency and type of this supervision can vary depending on the risk to the person.  The supervision does not need to be an inspection of the work but it can be combined with other tasks, such as a pastoral visit.  Some examples are:

  • The minister pops in to see the Church Sitters a few times a week.  They talk about the role over a cup of tea combining supervision with pastoral support.  Each member of the rota is seen at least once every three weeks.
  • The cleaner, who usually works alone, is joined by one or two senior Church Wardens once every three months for a 'deep clean' when they also discuss any issues.  At other times, one of them pops in occasionally to check everything is OK.
  • The contractor carrying out repair work is monitored on a daily basis by a site visit.  This can also be used for the contractor to provide detail on the progress.

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