Safeti Podcast Transcripts
‘Appetite for Disruption’ with Iain Evans, NCRQ
Hello and thanks for listening in I’m Richard and this is the safeti podcast. Where we break down the barriers to learning in the HSE profession. Don’t worry there are no gurus here. Just simple brutally honest sometimes and hopefully useful information for you. In this episode I have absolute privilege of hosting Iain Evans, the chief executive of the UK’s fastest growing health and safety awards body. Just to give you a taster, I discuss with Iain the reasons behind the formation of NCRQ. Then we go on to chat about why it has been so successful and I also ask Iain what lies ahead in the near future for himself and the team. If you’re interested in health and safety, you’re thinking about studying in the very near future or you just want to be inspired by some of the people that are disrupting the profession then I think this podcast has something for you. [Music]
Welcome to the safeti podcast. With your host all the way from a small green island in the wild Atlantic Ocean, Richard Collins.
I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to join me for this one. I did reach out to some of you to ask you if you would like to put any questions in front of Iain and hopefully I’ve been able to roll those up together and articulate them in some way for you on this show. That is what the safeti podcast is all about and you will see that Iain is clearly very passionate and principled when it comes to improving standards within the profession and you’ll hopefully discover that during the course of the episode. if you would like to know a bit more about NCRQ, the reasons behind its formation and learn more about their intent and strategy going forward you’ve come to the right place. Let’s motor on and get to this discussion with Iain. I’ll see you on the other side.
Richard: Welcome to the show Iain Evans from NCRQ, the chief executive nonetheless, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I know there will be lots of people that’ll be interested to hear what you have to say. How are you?
Iain: I am very well. Thank you Richard. Thank you for inviting me on. How are you?
Richard: Not too bad and I’m looking forward to asking you some questions. obviously I’m a big advocate of what you’ve provided to the market and I really would love to find out a bit more about why this has about and you know having done the course and trying to provide information for others. You know to encourage them to consider the NCRQ route and there’s lots of questions that have come out and I would like to help answer for them for you and obviously thank you so much for coming on today to help me do that.
Iain: No problem.
Richard: Well just before we kick off Iain, obviously there’s not many people that will be listening to this show that would know you personally per se and if you don’t mind, would you be able to tell us a little bit more about your own background and how you’ve come about to be the chief executive of NCRQ.
Iain: Certainly. I worked for many years as an inspector at the Health and Safety Executive in a variety of sectors including engineering and major hazard sites and it was there that I was exposed real issues that can cause harm at work. Investigating hundreds of serious and fatal accidents and that really brings home how safety management systems could fail and the very real consequences of poor safety management. Following that I moved on to head the legal and enforcement team of the Health and Safety Executive where I trained inspectors on legal issues and gave advice to the sort of senior principal inspectors on enforcement’s and prosecution decisions. From there I went to work at their local authority heading up their corporate risk functions. So that was not just as responsible for health and safety. but also corporate risk management and emergency planning and that sort of thing and it is that gamekeeper turned poacher role that really opened my eyes to the difficulties that organizations face trying to manage health and safety in the real world and it was then that I was sort of committed to do something about it and that’s why the NCRQ was born really, after those experiences as a regulator and then on the other side of the fence as somebody trying to implement those management systems.
Richard: Wow that’s really interesting to hear and I suppose that was your “why” as people would say and the reason why you got into it and I’m really intrigued to hear that and happy to hear it. because you know what you’ve actually produced it really comes through that there is an understanding of the realities of operational and systems management within real organizations and which as you’re referring to you know a lot of the times in days gone by and still to this day you know that isn’t well enough understood. My question that I wanted to ask you was regarding you know why you’ve come in to market. You really already answered that and with the success of NCRQ you’re clearly meeting that market need.
Iain: To be honest in my extensive experience as a regulator and also as corporate risk manager I was quite shocked by the lack of competence in the area of health safety management generally. I’ve met hundreds of safety advisors and safety managers and every one of them was intelligent and conscientious and motivated to do the right thing. But a significant proportion of those and I mean that seriously didn’t have the necessary understanding and skills to be able to actually manage health and safety. Most of them had undertaken a qualification and they’ve invested thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours of study and yet while they could talk about the theory, they weren’t able to apply this in practice or understand a risk based approach to health and safety management. Let me be clear I’m not saying that everybody was incompetent, not at all. But those who had the necessary skills and abilities seem to have this despite of their previous qualifications and not because of it. So in the early days we considered creating a training organization delivering NEBOSH qualifications that really focused on the competencies required in the real world. However it soon became apparent that we just simply wouldn’t fit in with the NEBOSH model. The examination based assessment and the focus on knowledge just wasn’t aligned with the competencies that are required for health and safety professionals in the real world. so we decided to develop our own qualifications, actually providing the knowledge, the understanding and the skills are required in real life and also to provide an assurance to employers that individuals with an NCRQ qualification could actually practice health and safety at both and just talk about it.
Richard: That’s an excellent point and there’s a lot of people that are good at talking about it. but perhaps when it comes to the crunch and actually delivering it you know on-site or with an organization it’s a different matter altogether and as I mentioned before, you’s really pinpointed the importance of soft skills and tried to start integrating that into your learning system for NCRQ. which has been really well received and I think for the most part the people that are doing it are recognizing that there was this gap or it’s a skill gap for them and when they’re doing these courses that they’re actually you know fulfilling that gap for their own competence. Which is excellent. In terms of the team, obviously you’ve described how NCRQ came about. The development team it is really an impressive list of names with vast cross sector experience. can you tell the audience just a little bit more about the team and how it was put together and why you think that it has led to you being so successful.
Iain: Well we initially started with quite a large number frontline inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive from a variety of sectors and we all got together, we started discussing sort of views on the competencies out there in general and of course bear in mind that many of the places that we went to as a regulator, we went to because the health and safety management system has failed. when we got together we quite quickly attracted the attention of the senior management of HSE and the former chief executive Jeffery Podger immediately shared our view and that there was an issue in relation to competence in the profession and so he left the Health and Safety Executive and came to join us as our chairman in our early days. Which was very good indeed. We then approached some of the largest employers in the UK and Europe and we found they all shared our view and our vision. That the health and safety profession needed something better. Something more relevant, something to improve standards of health and safety even higher. We added in a few specialist barristers and academics to the mix and that was basically our standards committee formed who were responsible for the oversight of the development of the qualifications.
Richard: Moving on down the organization then. Just taking into account some questions that I have seen asked by people online and so on. Which I take a very keen interest in. Some people were asking regarding the tutors that work for NCRQ, obviously they’re a very important part of the guidance and the assistance part of the course delivery. Can you tell us some more about what type of people you have on board and how they fit in with the aims that you’ve just mentioned of NCRQ?
Iain: Yes well the vast majority of our tutors are former inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive and we’ve found that this has been absolutely essential for what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to deliver. It is critical that our students are taught by people who know what they’re talking about. Who understand a bigger picture of health and safety and who can give real life experiences, real-life case studies to back up what we’re trying to teach our students. we receive lots and lots of positive feedback from the support that people have got and the ability of the tutors to be able to say quite confidently, no you don’t need to worry about this, it doesn’t matter that it says this, this is what’s important, focus on this particular area, don’t worry about this particular area and that’s the sort of thing that our students really like and they really take away the fact that they can get it from authority. What is an issue, what an issue isn’t, what is reasonably practicable and what isn’t? Added to that we have a few practitioners as well. So a few people for who have been to safety directors for very large companies to give the other side of the situation as well and put together we’ve got an absolutely amazing team who give 100% to our students.
Richard: I think that will be reassuring for a lot of people to hear and as much as I understood from what I read on your website and so on that was the case that you have you know ex inspectors and people that were you know definitely very well qualified to help guide students and there still are seemingly some people who are doubtful as to whether the NCRQ approach for some reason has that school of thought in terms of being thorough enough to teach or make students confident enough to deal with things to in the level of detail that would be required to meet the expectations of an inspector and so on. But clearly you’s have thought of that and you know that’s what how you brought these guys in.
Iain: Well our view is that our qualification is studies Health and Safety in a lot more depth and a lot more detail than other qualifications that are out there. Our approach is very much a case of an in-depth analysis, an in-depth ability to be able to critically analyze a scenario to determine the root cause of the issues and to come up with controls etc. etc. so other qualifications cover lots and lots and lots of material, but at a very superficial level. So if you consider an exam where you have perhaps twenty minutes or 30 minutes of analysis that you can do on that scenario, it doesn’t really get very deep other than testing a sort of recital of knowledge and concepts. Whereas with our assessments students have days, weeks of material to read through. Weeks of research to do and if they require a very in-depth analysis of a scenario, going to the core of the issue, critically analyzing a situation, undertaking research and then applying that research to the scenario and then considering the impact of that on the business and the impact on the workforce and indeed the impact was on society and then they need to determine what needs to be done and then how it’s going to be done and then they need to determine how they’re going to justify their recommendations to employees and senior managers and this is what NCRQ is all about. Those skills at the very core of those core competencies and it is very much a level six qualification. It’s very much a degree level qualification that requires that level of intellect and ability to analyze a situation and if you compare that with others. Other qualifications may be difficult in that there’s a lot of information to remember and to recite. but really it’s a case of we believe that our approach is what the professionals need in real life and it aligns very much with the approach that the regulator takes in that when an inspector visits a workplace, that inspector does not know everything about everything at all. All they know is the core competencies and the basic duties very very well. They’ll apply that to a scenario and they’ll give it their best guess and then they’ll go back to the office and they’ll research the actual detail of the legislation before they write a letter and put it in black and white. That’s how HSE works as well. Because that’s the risk-based approach to health and safety that the legislation actually wanted to happen when it was drafted and that’s the approach that the regulator takes as well. So we believe that how approach is very in-depth and aligned with exactly what in the industry should be like.
Richard: That’s really encouraging to hear that and I think one of the major selling points for NCRQ which I see is a differentiator is the focus on soft skills. which we’ve already touched on and just to go into that a little bit deeper and if you don’t mind, how important do you think that is; I know you’ve already managed it to some extent here. But just how important do you think that is and how more to the point of NCRQ approach the importance of it through their actual you know course delivery.
Iain: Well since we’ve started in 2-3 three years now, we started talking about soft [16:08 inaudible] skills. Lots of training providers have certainly started to talk about it. So sort of bolt it on to their qualifications. So yes we’ll do a little bit about soft skills. As soft skills is the core of what we do. That’s actually the center. That’s what a competent health & safety professional is about the soft skills. That’s the core of what we do. The ability to manage comes first and this is something that other qualifications don’t have is about managing health and safety. So for us, we differentiate ourselves because it’s the soft skills that we are testing. We’re testing the ability to manage, the ability to critically analyze, the ability to research, the ability to influence others. They are the core competencies and the debates about health and safety actually come after that. So that’s how we sort of differentiate ourselves from the qualifications out there.
Richard: Yeah I think that’s why I asked the question. That was a good answer and you know I really saw that myself that you’s putting a lot of importance on that and I guess that’s what people are feeling when they’re doing the courses. You know that difference and that focus on being able to influence people and as you say manage which is something I completely agree that we should primarily focus on. Backed up by the technical knowledge and experience then to you know to execute it. So that’s again a really positive thing I think. NCRQ of course is fully IOSH recognized and from what I can see is grown significantly since its introduction to become the best-selling Health and Safety diploma in the UK and yet from again online, social media and things that I picked up on; some people still seem to be concerned over some niggling parts that they have regarding the levels of recognition by different sectors of Industry and this question I guess will apply to people that have already completed your courses and maybe are going through them at the moment or even or just considering them. Do you actually have a strategy to address these concerns and to improve the visibility or acceptance of NCRQ as a brand alongside your main competitors?
Iain: We are looking at it. But to be honest we deal with tens of thousands of student queries and we’ve never actually heard of a single incident of an employer not accepting NCRQ. So there are obviously there are still a few people out there who haven’t heard of NCRQ. But once they made aware, they always see it as an alternative and we’ve actually found that usually they see it as if is the preferred option. Because of the competencies and the assurance that it provides. We’ve had quite a number of anecdotes from our students who have explained NCRQ to a prospective employer and have then gone on to get the job. Because of their skillset and the and the additional assurance provided to them by NCRQ that individuals competent to actually do health and safety rather than just talk about it. Of course NEBOSH has been around for 35 years or so and of course that’s the qualification that springs to mind. If I can use an analogy, Hoover was leading the world of vacuum cleaners for 40 odd years, mainly because there was no real competition out there and then Dyson came along and developed something that was much more efficient, much better. But aligned to what people actually wanted and within a year they became the leading brand of vacuum cleaner by far and maintaining that position for many years. But despite being the best and the market leader, able still refer to them as Hoover’s and this is exactly the situation with NCRQ. People still do and will refer to NEBOSH is the generic qualification for health and safety. But the fact is that most people actually now sitting with NCRQ than NEBOSH.
Richard: That’s great way to explain it. But you know you obviously had the belief at the start that you were able to that there was a gap there and you would be able to fill it. I’m sure you’re seeing this come to fruition now. Which I’m sure it’s very satisfying for you.
Iain: Definitely yeah. More importantly than that and this is the honest truth. What we’re seeing is an improvement in standards of health and safety in the UK and actually that was the driving force and it may be hard to imagine. We are a company. But actually what we wanted to do was make health and safety standards better. Give people the skills they need to drive up health and safety and so yes people voted with their feet that you know the profession has already switched turn to NCRQ. but more importantly the students that we train, students that we’ve you know we’ve helped qualify in health and safety will then go on and drive up standards to all of the places, to all the workplaces across the UK and that’s for us is the achievement. That’s what we have strived for since we’ve started and again that was always our aim. Yes sales are great. Yes clearly we are now the market leader. The fact is that standard to improve people will be safer and people will go home from work safe and healthy.
Richard: Absolutely. that of course is the fundamental theme of any of us whose involved in you know in health and safety as an industry and it’s great that you know you’re able to see that and that was your initial hope and I think that the support that you’re getting as you say people are voting with their feet and in terms of feedback from what I see online, you know I haven’t seen anyone come back off of the back end of an NCRQ course and say anything negative. Everybody jumping up for joy to say how great and how useful it is and how valuable and relatable it is to their job. Which ultimately that’s where the value is and that’s where you know if you can meet that need, then that’s where you’re improving standards. which as you say or improving health and safety within the UK. That leads us on actually to another question that many people are asking as well and this goes for you know students that are ex-students or graduates of NCRQ and those that are interested from beyond the UK and of course within the UK as well. Everybody’s excited to see what you’re doing and moving into the future and I do know that you have said previously that you’re primarily focusing on your core offerings and I appreciate that very much. but there’s a lot of folks that have already studied with NCRQ and you know they’re wandering along with myself, are you thinking about potentially offering anything as a means of continual development for people in the profession or anything of that nature or broadening your scope in terms of the courses.
Iain: Yes I mean we are investing quite heavily in both our current qualifications and keeping them to be the best that they could possibly be. but also we are looking at some other qualifications as well at the moment and we are looking and I think that the next qualification will be in relation to fire safety and so if that’s something that’s in the pipeline at the moment and we’re also considering a qualification in relation to construction safety. The fire safety elements is a similar motivation to our health and safety qualifications. That the current qualifications don’t necessarily give the skills that are actually needed to effectively manage fire safety and that’s where we’re coming from with that and in relation to the construction safety qualification however; that’s more addressed at demand. We’re getting lots and lots of people asking for it. Well we didn’t want to go down the route of sector specific qualifications. Because the fundamental principles are exactly the same. There are so many people in the industry and some of the big players in the industry has asked us to develop something. So a construction safety qualification will be released as well at some point. In terms of time scale and I’m sure that will be would have been one of your next questions, if I can be say this you can’t rush perfection and it is taking time. Because we want it to be absolutely perfect. We want it to be awesome like our qualifications and so it will take us some time to get it as good as we want it to be. But rest assured we are working away on things in the background.
Richard: Awesome it’s really, I’m happy to hear that. As you can imagine and even just for myself that these are looking areas are in the middle of developing those courses and completely appreciate that it’s not something you want to do quickly or quicker than it should be done to get to the level that you want it to be in terms of quality. So I’m sure we’ll be patiently wait for news of when they will be coming out and available. As I’m sure you know yourself Iain there’s lots of interest from outside the UK what you’re doing. Do you have anything that you can say to the international community to give them an insight as to what your take is on how applicable NCRQ is for them and if you have any other plans for the future development of the International offering?
Iain: Well our qualifications, they are based on the legislation in the UK and they are based quite heavily on the culture of the UK and business in the UK. We have a number of international students studying with us. but where we recommend our qualifications for people who are from the UK and who are perhaps working for a British company or there are overseas that the company works to British Standards and for example we have a lot of students in the Middle East who study with this. But as to a broad international audience, obviously it is certainly a good money-making opportunity. But that’s not what NCRQ is all about and I think that we are focusing on what we do well. It would be wrong for us to try and recreate what we’ve done so well in the United Kingdom in other countries. Because you know we don’t know what the cultures like in other countries. We don’t know exactly what they’re always like in other countries. We could do something which is more generic, it wouldn’t be as good and so at the moment and into the foreseeable future we’re focusing on the sort of on the UK, perhaps on countries with similar cultures and the sort of business arrangements and that’s also the core market at the moment.
Richard: Okay I mean that’s perfectly honest answer and really shows us you know your true motivations and the thoughts behind what you’re doing and I think people will appreciate hearing that. So thanks for being so open with us there. Iain you’ve provided some excellent information during this discussion. I’m sure they’ll be lots and lots of interest as I say from people that are thinking about getting involved with an NCRQ course and those that are in the middle studying with NCRQ. it really bolster there are motivations to get finished and sort of shout it from the rooftops and also you know previous students such as myself, it’s really nice to hear straight from you as to why you what you are doing and I’d like to congratulate you again on what has been achieved so far and wish you all the best for the future and who knows you might be able to come back on to the safeti podcast and give us an update again for our listeners.
Iain: Definitely definitely and thanks for having us Richard
Richard: Not a problem okay and take care.
Well there you have it. That was our call with Iain Evans, the chief executive of NCRQ. I know many of you are interested in NCRQ as an organization. So I hope that you find that discussion valuable and interesting. We’d love to know your thoughts on some of what was talked about during the call. If you have studied with NCRQ or you have any further questions for either myself or Iain, please leave us a comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. I know that plenty of you guys are getting lots of value from these discussions with industry leaders and subject matter experts. One of the things I’m working on at the moment is summarizing some of this content for you to make it more consumable for you and useful and so you can reflect on it and use it in your day-to-day decision-making and so on. So if that sounds like a good thing please let me know. As ever we would love to hear feedback from you. Please keep telling us what you would like to hear in the future and if you’re finding these podcasts useful and the content valuable, please share it with your friends and peers. Our aim here continues to be to create valuable resources for you and to help as many people as possible. So we look forward to serving you further in the next podcast. If you have any questions just fire them to us. also please feel free to subscribe if you’d like to contribute to our direction as we move forward and as well as that, it would be really really valuable for us if you left us a review on iTunes and just to keep us motivated to keep going. So until next time keep up the good work and we’ll speak to you soon.
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