The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has highlighted incompetent trainers and inadequate training as key factors in many workplace accidents. Unfortunately, it’s often only after such accidents that employers find out how good their training provider really is.

When accidents happen, employers are responsible for showing they have provided appropriate training for their employees. Their training organisation may also have to prove their abilities to third parties, such as the HSE. So it’s vital that companies research their training providers thoroughly and only use those which comply with health and safety regulations.

Choosing the right training provider

The HSE advises employers to make sure their external training provider has:

Martin James, Commercial Director, Didac Limited, commented: “Employers need to make sure they get the right training for their organisation from an approved training provider with the relevant qualifications.

“There is nothing to stop individuals or companies deciding to provide training in wood machining, but often they don’t have the right qualifications or suitable industrial experience, nor offer adequate quality checks. Equally, a supplier who specialises in machine commissioning is unlikely to provide the required foundation training on classical machinery.

“Training providers, whether colleges or independents like Didac, who deliver training programmes to the wood sector, should have a range of programmes in place. These could include qualifications from an awarding body such as City and Guilds, CITB or PIABC. Providers that are subject to quality inspections by Ofsted and registered with OSHCR should bring a degree of confidence to the employer.

“All training should meet health and safety requirements, and managers and supervisors should also be included in appropriate training sessions, to keep them up-to-date with supervisory responsibilities. Ask for testimonials from previous customers to back up the provider’s claims.”

Didac’s credentials as a safe training provider

One of two organisations that currently look after the wood sector for qualification development, Proskills is an awarding body that helps champion high-quality industrial skills.

Jonathan Ledger, CEO Proskills, said: “We have seen first-hand the depth and scope of Didac’s training provision. One of our key performance indicators is feedback from employers and Didac gets consistently good reviews.”


Proskills and Didac Work Together to Carve Careers
By Ebony Arnold (


As a young person, finding the right start in life can be really difficult. But with the right support, guidance and training, fantastic career opportunities are carved – and that’s exactly what’s going on down at Didac’s Woodwise Academy in Bristol.

Proskills’ MD Jonathan Ledger recently took a trip down to see all the fabulous work going on at the Woodwise Academy and was blown away by the high class skills training, fantastic facilities and superb support that is delivered to students by a really committed team of industry focused trainers. Jonathan along with Proskills’ Wood and Furniture Industry Lead, Lisa Williamson, met with Directors Martin James and Jon Gibson to discuss how partnership activities will be shaped in the future.

The wood, furniture and merchanting industries benefit from strong employer support and have a wide range of training courses, qualifications and apprenticeships at their disposal. However there remains difficulty in reaching some employers so that they can realise the benefits of using all the existing skills system to their maximum potential. In a world where the skills system is being challenged to deliver advanced level and higher quality training and skills to employers, it’s clear that we don’t need more new initiatives or facilities or training providers.

Jonathan Ledger, Managing Director at Proskills UK Group said:
“We all need to maximise the existing skills system and facilities so that we get it doing what employers want and if what’s already there doesn’t quite work in the way that industry would like, then employers need to get involved to help repurpose and enhance it.”
“Part of this comes down to us continually informing the industry of what’s out there and part is about helping employers and individuals access the right part of the skills system so they get the very best from it. Of course part of the responsibility falls on to employers – who just need contact us as Proskills UK continues to develop the wood, furniture and merchanting skills system led by employers, but is always seeking more employer involvement. So get involved!”

Martin James, co-founder and Director of Didac added:
“This year has seen the launch of several new qualifications developed exclusively for our sector. This has had an immediate positive impact on demand from employers because the new qualifications are just what the sector needed, which is hardly surprising because seasoned executives from the wood, furniture and merchanting sectors were heavily involved in the development of their qualifications.”
“The training, facilities and support that Didac provide for the industry is essential for its future success, ensuring we have the right skills in place to make the industry safer and prosperous. The Woodwise Woodworking machine competence programme is one example, where they are delivering the skills needed to ensure that both employees and employers meet the HSE requirements in making the industry a safer place to work and more productive.”

Lisa Williamson, Proskills’ Apprenticeship and Qualifications Manager said:
“This year has seen the launch of several new qualifications developed exclusively for our sector. All of them currently attract Government funding, but it’s a case of use it or lose it, so I can only reiterate Jonathan’s comment – get involved, otherwise funding will migrate to other sectors.”

At Didac, we often get asked for employment advice on becoming a crane operator and what the job prospects are like. There are many different types of cranes found in industry serving different purposes so the answer to the question requires us to understand what type of crane we are talking about.

When someone asks for employment advice on becoming a crane operator, I assume the person is referring to a job role that revolves primarily around crane operation. This does in fact narrow it down a bit.

Job roles primarily based on crane operation

Before we get into these crane types, it should be noted that Didac do not deliver training for tower crane or portside container handling cranes (which differ from overhead container cranes, confusing I know).

The information contained here is purely my understanding of cranes in industry and should form the basis of your research only.

Tower crane

Commonly found in the construction industry, tower cranes are those cranes you see towering above a city skyline, hence the name. The operator would likely be positioned in a cab at the top of the crane so you’d better not suffer from vertigo.

It is my assumption that operating a tower crane is quite a specialist skill upon which an offer of employment might be based i.e. your job role could be defined as a tower crane operator. Your actual role would likely require you to complete other tasks but fundamentally the role might be operating the tower crane.

Container handling crane

Commonly found in ports, container handling cranes are used to offload shipping containers from cargo vessels. Again, the operator would likely be positioned in a cab some distance off the ground where he would remain and unload ships as they come in to port.

It is the position of the cab on both these cranes that somewhat leads me to assume that the job role would be based more around operating the crane than anything else. Since you’re unlikely to hop in to the cab for a 2 minute job, you’d probably find that when the crane operator is needed, that he or she is needed for some time.

Job roles where crane operation is secondary

For many crane operators, operating the crane is part of a wider job role i.e. you would not be employed solely as a crane operator but as a worker who operates a crane as part of their job.

Overhead Crane

Overhead crane is a generalisation used to describe a number of different crane types that are all fairly similar including:

Good news! Didac provide training for all of these crane types

Overhead cranes are commonly found in factories, manufacturing facilities or other industrial working environments. As an example, operators may be required to use the crane to move items down a production line but this would not be the core function of the job role.

Being a trained overhead crane operator, although it would look good on a job application and score you a few point, would not necessarily be the crux of a job offer. By the same notion, not being trained to operate an overhead crane should not have an extreme adverse effect on your job prospects when applying for a role.

Most employers would want to employ the right person, investing in training to deliver the right skills to that person, as opposed to employing the wrong person because they have some of the right skills and they can save a few quid on training.

Vehicle Mounted Crane aka Lorry Loader aka HIAB

Find the job, then source the training

This is my advice every time.

There’s no point in paying for training which won’t allow you to get a job.

As we’ve established there are lots of different crane types and training is not always one size fits all; you’ll need to receive training for the specific crane type you’re required to operate.

There are also various training accreditations for different types of cranes. Some industry sectors favour or only accept a particular accreditation so you need to be sure you have the right accreditation for the job i.e. OPITO in the offshore industry or perhaps CPCS in construction.

What are the job prospects?

I really couldn’t say. I’d be making it up.

What kind of pay can you expect?

Again, I really don’t know. The one way to find out is to get online, get on job boards and find some job adverts.

By Chris James.

Two outstanding merchant apprentices have been honoured with BMF Apprentice of the Year Awards, which acknowledge exceptional candidates enrolled on the BMF Apprenticeship (NVQ Level 2) and Advanced Apprenticeship (NVQ Level 3) schemes.

Nathan Medlam, 19, who works as a yardman for Milford in Leeds, was named Apprentice of the Year for NVQ Level 2 – sponsored by Aggregate Industries.

James Matlock, now group sales and service trainer at Ridgeons in Cambridge, scooped the Apprentice of the Year Award for NVQ Level 3 candidates, sponsored by the Institute of Builders Merchants.

As well as the prestigious title and a trophy, both received a personal cheque for £250 together with a £1,000 scholarship fund to continue their vocational training with the BMF.

Mr Medlam and Mr Matlock were nominated for the awards by their Didac/BMF regional assessors for their attitude, commitment and achievements. By their own admission, neither had been a ‘high achiever’ at school, but both flourished under the vocational training provided by their apprenticeships, earning the praise of their employers for the enthusiasm with which they embraced their studies and their positive contribution in the workplace.

BMF managing director John Newcomb said: “The adaptability of the Apprentice system gives everyone an equal opportunity – including those who have not flourished in their formal education. The BMF is committed to ensuring that talented and committed apprentices are given the recognition they rightly deserve. Nathan and James have shown their determination to succeed in the merchanting industry and we wish them every success in their future careers.”

Press release featured in Feb/March 2013 edition of Sign Update Magazine and featured on the Sign Update Magazine Website.

I’ll start by diffusing a little myth: It is not a legal requirement to hold a particular accredited training certificate to work on site or operate a specific piece of equipment. In fact it’s not a legal requirement to have accredited training at all.

What is required by law is that employers must provide adequate training to ensure the competence of their employees. This responsibility continues that employees should receive on-going support, advice and guidance such that they are able to complete their job and its associated work tasks without risk of injury or harm to themselves or others.

There are a number of accreditation schemes which are recognised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to help set and maintain professional training standards. Examples include ITSSAR (Forklift, Plant, Craneand more), PASMA (Mobile Scaffold Tower), IPAF (Aerial Work Platform).

In essence, accreditation is a kite mark of quality. It means that a training provider such as Didac Ltd and its delivery staff are monitored by one or more of these independent external bodies and has met the conditions of accreditation. This requires that accredited training providers keep up to date and accurate training records, whilst trainers are monitored on a regular basis so they consistently meet the required standards for training and safety. Accredited training providers bridge the gap between employers and the HSE, thereby assuring employers that the training provided to equipment operators is of an acceptable standard.

By way of example, signage installation, big or small, might require the use of specialist equipment such as a Cherry Picker or Scaffold Tower. An employer must provide suitable and sufficient equipment training to ensure employees possess the necessary knowledge and skill to conduct the installation safely. Another duty of care however, lies with the site on which the installation is being completed to ensure that only competent persons are permitted to operate.

To achieve this, sites will often require the credentials of each equipment operator to be checked before access to work is permitted. Card schemes such as PASMAor IPAF provide photo ID cards to successful training candidates for this verification process. As we now know, accreditation provides a seal of quality to you as an employer; this is also true for any site manager.

Refusal to work on site can be problematic and undesirable for all involved causing disruption to work schedules. Avoiding such situations retains the professional outward appearance of your organisation and means that health and safety does not get in the way of conducting business.

There is, however, no universal site-ticket, so it cannot be said that any specific accreditation is a gateway to work on every site in the UK. If you have a job on site where another organisation is the authority on health and safety, our advice is to check first whether they require a particular accreditation. Access to work remains the decision of the person responsible for site Health and Safety, they may be limited in the accreditations that they recognise and that is their prerogative.

Either way, the underlying message has to be stay safe by ensuring the competency of your staff. There are still far too many work related accidents and deaths in the UK. Proper training is a must but accredited training raises safety and provides an audit trail in the event of an incident, which could be the difference between an incident being classified as an accident or negligence.

ITSSAR and OPERC have recently held several meetings to discuss how the two bodies can work closer together for the greater good and benefit of the mobile plant and equipment industry. During these meetings, the OPERC safetynet test was discussed in some detail and it has been agreed that ITSSAR will begin to use OPERC safetynet as part of a package of training and educational resources to be delivered by ITSSAR.

In July 2012 Paul Mackley, Gary Hobson and Carl Greaves successfully completed the invigilator session with Grahame Tobin from ITSSAR and have been registered as approved invigilators for the safetynet test.


The Off-highway Plant and Equipment Research Centre (OPERC) is renowned for being the leading international centre of excellence for plant and equipment management science and it is also one of the fastest growing professional trade bodies.

OPERC’s underpinning philosophy is to provide low cost, high quality products and services to members in order to ensure:

Improved health and safety throughout industry; Higher standards of training, education and competence development; Enhanced business processes leading to higher company profitability and performance; Dissemination of cutting edge technological innovation and industry best practice.

A number of the major construction companies in the UK are now members of OPERC.


The fundamental aim of OPERC-Safetynet is to measure knowledge retained once an operative has undertaken basic ‘plant or equipment’ training. OPERC-Safetynet is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The OPERC safetynet is seen as an alternative to the CSCS and CPCS cards and is evidence of candidates achieving a good level of Health and Safety and specific plant knowledge.

Upon successful completion of the operational test, candidates can then undertake the new S/NVQ mandatory questions test paper free of charge. Moreover, each individual unit can be taken at any time and again no charge is made. Having completed the S/NVQ process, automated reports are the generated to include in a candidate’s S/NVQ portfolio thus saving assessor time and expense but also allowing them to spend more time on training the candidate.

Any employee or manager can undertake this test and so you do not have to be a machinery operator.

The test represents an ideal measure of the trainee operator’s knowledge retained once having undertaken a basic course in plant and equipment operation. It can also be used to periodically measure the retained knowledge of experienced operators albeit at this present time, the test is only applicable to mono plant items. In the near future, the test will be expanded to cover operators with multiple categories of plant and equipment on their operator’s card.

In September ’11, Didac Ltd were contacted by Cable and Wireless Monaco and Islands and asked to put together a training package that could be run on one of their most remote locations, the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. A programme was fine tuned and agreed for delivery. In March ’12, industrial training manager Paul Mackley set off for four weeks to one of the most isolated islands on the planet.

Paul takes up the story….

Getting to St Helena is not an easy thing in itself. At present the island has no airport and is only accessible by sea and so getting there involves a flight with the Royal Air Force to Ascension Island and a four day voyage on the RMS St Helena. Although this will hopefully change in three years time as the construction of an airport has now commenced.

On arrival at St Helena it was straight in at the deep end with the first course commencing the same afternoon. The schedule was pretty hectic but when someone has travelled so far the time has to be optimised as much as possible. Of the 17 days I spent on the Island 15 of them were spent training.

The first thing that you notice on the island is that the pace of life is very different to what we are used to in the UK, everything is decidedly laid back. The people are amongst the friendliest I’ve ever encountered and the attitude of the candidates to the training was excellent throughout. It is apparent though that there are some issues regarding health and safety and when you consider that the nearest large, well equipped hospital is a 5 day boat crossing to Cape Town it is especially important that the standards are raised.

During my time on the island I conducted courses in PPE Inspection, Health & Safety Levels 1 & 2, Manual Handling, Working at Height, PAT Testing, Rigging & Slinging and Vehicle Mounted MEWP’s for Cable & Wireless. One of the things I was most pleased with during the training was that I was able to help some of their staff to refine their procedures for emergency rescue when working at height.

When asked about the training a member of Cable and Wireless St Helena staff commented:

“The training was an eye opener, there was so much that we were unaware of. There has been good participation by all staff who have now become more health and safety aware and are keen to put good measures in place”

Courses in Working at Height, Vehicle Banksman and Health and Safety Level 2 were also conducted for the St Helena Adult Vocational Education Service (AVES)during my visit. These took place at the weekends and I found it very interesting talking to the candidates about their jobs on the Island, I had people from various employers including the islands fire service as well as retail and care staff. We are hopeful that we can now continue to help and support AVES remotely and build on the success of the training going forward.

“The training has certainly raised our awareness of Health and Safety issues and has made us realise just how far behind we are with health and safety on the island”. AVES Participant

The trip to St Helena has been one of the most challenging of my career, but also one of the most rewarding. It was different to anything else I’ve experienced in my years of training, but the island has a way of getting to you and I would happily return without hesitation if the chance ever arose.

Paul pictured with Cable and Wireless St Helena chief executive Hensil O’Bey on completion of the training.

In response to queries from clients who required additional clarity on their training qualification, a new section to the Didac Industrial website is under development. As a supplement to certificates issued upon completion of training, this new resource will outline exactly what the certificate of training authorises the candidate for.

It is the responsibility of each employer to ensure that their employees receive adequate training, advice and guidance to undertake jobs safely and without risk of injury to themselves or others. This resource should help provide reassurance to employers that they are meeting that responsibility.

Clarification of Training Documents begins with the BITA List for Fork Lift trucks. Issued by the British Industrial Truck Association, the list is a clear and concise outline of the different Fork Lift trucks available. Placed in categories by machine type, function, size etc. the list offers real boundaries for training qualification. Information on all other industrial training qualifications will be added over the coming weeks.

This new resource is part of a wider effort by Didac Ltd to support existing customers, providing relevant information to help keep your employees safe within the workplace while protecting you as an employer.

If you have a question about a Didac issued training certificate or a training qualification obtained elsewhere, our experienced trainer / assessors are happy to support you.

Call 0800 773 4230 and ask for Daniel Lambert or Paul Mackley with any queries related directly to the industrial training courses listed on this website.

We are very pleased to announce the Didac have been approved by ELCAS to deliver funded training courses to forces personnel. Courses available include National Forklift Instructor.

For more details of the the course please contact Paul Mackley or Daniel Lambert on 0800 773 4230 or email us at