Training in the time of COVID-19: Remote learning options for Health and Safety Representatives

Article published in The Regulator | Issue 3: 2020

In light of physical distancing requirements and travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19, NOPSEMA has highlighted the need for remote learning opportunities to ensure that newly selected Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) are able to receive training within a reasonable timeframe following their selection.

HSRs contribute to improving the safety of the offshore workforce by representing work group members, understanding their health and safety concerns and assisting them to participate in health and safety decisions that affect them. Working in collaboration with the facility operator, work group members and employers, HSRs help to prevent incidents and promote safer ways of working. HSRs are afforded a range of powers and protections under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (OPGGS) Act, including powers to inspect workplaces, investigate complaints, represent group members, and issue improvement notices.

Under the OPGGS Act, once selected by the members of their designated work group, HSRs must undertake a course of training relating to occupational health and safety that is accredited by NOPSEMA. This course has in the past been delivered in a classroom-based environment to facilitate peer learning and collaboration between HSRs from different companies and facilities.

As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures, no HSR training was delivered across Australia between the months of March and July 2020. While restrictions have currently eased across much of the country and HSR training in Western Australia has recommenced, it now appears that a rapid recovery to pre-COVID-19 conditions is unlikely, and that the impacts of COVID-19 will likely continue for some time. In anticipation of ongoing COVID-19 interruptions to classroom-based training provisions, NOPSEMA believes it’s prudent to consider how HSR training might be delivered via remote learning during periods when governments have implemented restrictions that prohibit traditional classroom-based training.

NOPSEMA has written to accredited providers of HSR training and invited them to submit for accreditation a restructured training package supporting provision of remote HSR training. The package will need to meet the same learning elements and performance criteria as outlined in the Course Descriptor. Providers were asked to assess the potential adverse impacts on learning outcomes associated with remote learning and to identify how these will be mitigated. Further, providers were asked to describe how they will ensure that the important peer-learning components of HSR training will be maintained within a remote learning environment.

NOPSEMA will follow the usual process for accrediting the proposed training package and, once satisfied with the proposal, will provide conditional accreditation where the remote package may be delivered during periods where state or federal government restrictions prevent classroom-based training from proceeding.

NOPSEMA inspectors attend accredited HSR training sessions to liaise directly with HSRs, answer any questions they may have and listen to concerns. During periods where State or Federal Government restrictions prevent classroom-based training from proceeding, NOPSEMA will continue to provide inspector involvement in remote training via videoconference.