A recent news report on two employees of a US-based nuclear plant who were arrested brings to light yet again the issue of employee competency testing in major sectors such as nuclear. Situated in Chicago, the plant in question was been forced to review their current focus on employee testing after two arrests in the past month. Both employees were being trained to operate nuclear reactors – a job that comes with a high amount of risk and responsibility. One former employee was charged with assaulting an officer at an off-site party, while the other was charged with resisting arrest and throwing a beer can at an arresting officer. Even more shocking however, is that these are not the first arrests of this nature – another two high-ranking former employees of the same plant are both awaiting trial for even more serious offences. A nuclear watch website commented that these two offenders were fully licensed and not intended to pose any remote threat. What these cases reveal is that employee competency testing in work environments such as nuclear plants needs to be taken very seriously indeed to prevent apparent ‘star employees’ from slipping through the cracks.
Competency Assessments in High Risk Industries
When it comes to meeting health and safety regulations in the workplace, the nuclear industry is under every bit as much obligation to perform as any other high-risk (or even little to no risk) organisation. After all, the entire aim of occupational health and safety protocol is to ensure that everything is done according to strict procedure. While basic employee testing may include entry testing for new employees as well as annual and/or scheduled testing prior to promotion, high-risk industries require a far more detailed approach to ensure that employees remain motivated, educated and trained sufficiently. Identifying potential non-compliance, training gaps or other red flags is key to prevent renegade behaviour such as the examples of ‘employees gone wild’ mentioned above. Boredom, lack of motivation, lack of understanding and even simply a bad attitude can all lead to potentially bigger issues if left unchecked. Through semi regular routine or scheduled assessments – especially those managed through an automated tool – is one of the best ways to note those red flags at an early stage. If certain employees who have undergone testing are drawing any attention to themselves through poor test results, it becomes far simpler to determine whether further training is needed. But when testing is seen as a once-off or annual event, small behaviour signs are often missed. Discontent grows, and before you know it, employees might just be making the news after their small issues blow into far bigger issues. These reports are thankfully not very common – the fact that they happen at all however says that it is never a bad time to weigh up the benefits of a solid employee competency assessment strategy.