Required Training?: Risk profiling can lead the way

June 09, 2008
Written by Nikolas Chapman
requiredThe term ‘required training’ has become an ambiguous one. Where is the exhaustive list an aviation manager can reference to ensure that everything ‘required’ is being accomplished? While some training requirements are prescribed by regulation or standard, others are less clear, such as performance-based standards. Safety Management Systems (SMS) invoke performance-based training requirements that are no less required than those prescribed by regulation. The problem is that sometimes we may not recognize that training is needed until we are left trying to determine the cause of an accident or incident.

Of course, this is a worst-case scenario; however, it emphasizes the importance of an accurate assessment of training needs. It also emphasizes the need for a reliable method of measuring the effectiveness of training provided. A training-needs assessment can be quite naturally undertaken with each update of an organization’s risk profile. The reason for this is simple; most risks dictate training as at least part of an effective mitigation.

Plainly speaking, risk is a product of the likelihood of a loss or injury occurring, and the severity of the loss or injury that may result from such an occurrence. Our risk rises whenever the likelihood or likely severity of an occurrence increases.

For example, if we lower the experience requirement for pilots operating in environments with particularly short runways, we are increasing the risk of an overrun. Pilot experience is a human factor that will affect the likelihood of an accident or incident. Also affecting likelihood are operational factors (e.g., approach lighting, runway condition reporting, navigation services, etc.), and technical factors (e.g., aircraft performance). Alternatively, if we decide to increase our passenger-carrying capacity, the severity of an accident may include the fatality/injury of an additional person. In both cases our risk of injury or loss increases.

Risk profiling is a proactive process that includes identifying hazards that produce risk, eliminating risks, controlling or mitigating risks, documentation, and considering the effectiveness of current risk mitigation. Conducting a risk profile should involve a wide range of experienced personnel within your organization. Individuals that are familiar with your particular operation will provide the most valuable input. Also, including a consultant or an individual from outside of your organization may offer a unique perspective and valuable insight.

One at a time (using realistic scenarios), identify risks that affect your operations. Each time a risk is identified, consider its likelihood of occurring and the severity of its outcome. This will help you categorize the risk. It doesn’t really matter what descriptor you use – low to high, no risk to considerable risk, etc. You may also consider rating the risk on a scale of one to ten, or plotting it on a matrix. Regardless, it is most important to assign parameters to risk categories that are either: acceptable, acceptable with control or mitigation, or unacceptable.

It is human nature to become accustomed to hazards following long enough exposure. Do not become complacent and underestimate the true risks that regularly-faced hazards present. Each time you evaluate risk, try to look at it from a renewed perspective.  Remember complacency is the culprit in many disasters.

Collaborate with your group on risks that require mitigation or control; you will find that in addition to policy changes and resources, training is commonly part of the answer. Well-directed training will inform individuals of the risks present and identify means of protecting themselves from potentially harmful outcomes. Relevant training will arm individuals with the knowledge to confront challenging situations and react in an appropriate manner.

By understanding how we as humans learn, we can begin to assess prospective training before we choose to apply it. Before selecting or administering a particular course, consider the following factors:

1. Accuracy – Is the training correct? This may seem obvious, but it is important that training be based on proven practices, scientific study, and empirical knowledge. It can be dangerous to provide training that is simply theoretical. Check training resources and references to ensure that the training you are providing is based on the latest proven information. Updating course material to incorporate the latest research will also ensure the training remains fresh, and continues to captivate the audience.

2. Learning Styles – How is the training being delivered? Much research has gone into determining how we as humans learn. It is apparent that we do not all learn by the same teaching styles. Some of us may learn better by pictures (visual), some may favour writing (word smart), and others may learn best by doing (body smart). Although we as individuals may lean toward one style, all of us tend to learn best when a number of styles are combined1. So look at the training material. Is it simply words on a page, or does it include diagrams, pictures, video, etc. These days, it is certainly becoming easier for us to draw on a number of media forms to support a variety of learning styles.

These are only two factors to consider – there are more. Important factors will become apparent when you seek feedback from within your organization. You will continue to provide captivating lessons when you sample your group, and choose/develop training that honestly considers your audience’s input.
Evaluation of the training you provide is an important process to ensure that the results of the training are effective. There are a number of ways to measure training effectiveness, including review of course materials, testing, and sampling.

Testing can be an effective means of measuring how well a topic has been received. It can also provide a sound basis for determining if and when recurrent training should be provided.

Training is not the only effective method for reducing or eliminating risk. A policy or procedure may work equally as well. Just be certain that you have a reliable method of communicating these developments or changes. It is a good idea (perhaps imperative) to provide training to cement the policy or procedure, and ensure that each individual within your organization has a similar understanding.

Effectiveness of training provided should be considered when you complete your next risk profiling exercise. These results may further determine risk mitigation strategies, and perhaps additional, updated, or refocused training needs.

Risk profiling is an integral part of your organization’s SMS. Diligent and meaningful risk profiling will certainly identify or confirm areas where training will aid in the prevention of occurrences, and more clearly define what ‘required training’ means to your organization.

References:
1 Armstrong, Thomas (1993).   7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences.  New York: Plume.

Nikolas Chapman is the Content Coordinator for TrainingPort.net, a recognized pilot training organization focused on corporate and business aviation.

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