Many safety-critical industries are facing both the opportunities and challenges that come with rapid technology development and increasingly complex automated systems.  Added to this, is the challenge posed by growing skills shortages across many safety-critical roles.  This landscape is mirrored within the field of training and competence management in safety-critical industries.  Training technology is rapidly advancing, with developments in simulation, virtual reality, and adaptive learning technologies.  At the same time, commercial pressures and skills shortages necessitate that training is expeditious and efficient, while remaining effective in building the competence required for safe operations.  The effective identification and prioritisation of training requirements becomes critical, to ensure that training utilises learning tools and devices effectively; that it is efficient in its design and delivery; and most importantly, that it supports safe and effective human performance.

Risk-Based Training Needs Analysis (RBTNA) provides a valuable tool to identify and prioritise training needs for safety-critical roles.  Used well, it has the potential to make training programs more effective by identifying the detailed training needs for a role in a structured and systematic way, based on a thorough understanding of the role and the context in which it is performed.  RBTNA also has the potential to make training more efficient, by ensuring that an appropriate amount of training is provided, based on the actual training needs of the role, and that the greatest emphasis is placed on the training needs that are likely to have the most impact in actual line performance.

RBTNAs have been widely embraced by the rail industry, particularly in Australia and the UK.  In Australia, RBTNAs gained prominence after the Waterfall accident in New South Wales, and became a routine step in defining training needs for safety-critical roles in many rail organisations, and as part of major procurement projects.  However, the industry is yet to exploit the full potential of RBTNAs as a core component of competence management systems.  This article focusus on the role of Risk Based Training Needs Analysis in a systems-based approach to training, and how to maximise the value of the tool, ensuring that the RBTNA it is not a one-off activity that is shelved and forgotten soon after it is created!

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