New EI Guidance on ensuring control room operator (CRO) competence

Control room operators (CROs) perform a critical role in running normal operations, infrequent activities such as process shut downs, and handling abnormal events and emergencies. Ensuring a sufficient number of competent CROs are available on site is a key element of safety, and can contribute positively to productivity.

This new publication from the EI provides specific guidance on how to assure competence of CROs, particularly how to define competence standards, select training and development methods, assess CROs and maintain their competence once in post.


The first challenge to training new CROs is in achieving an adequate pool of candidates from which to select CROs.  As CROs are often selected from field operators, this has a major implication; the recruitment of field operators should foresee the subsequent requirement for CROs.  This guide therefore advises that at least some field operators are recruited based on their potential to be CROs. Methods of assessing underpinning skills are cited in the guide to help identify potential CROs amongst current or candidate field operators.

The second challenge is that training someone to become a CRO is a long process involving the identification of the tasks a CRO needs to undertake, the competencies required, and how to best train and assess those competencies (e.g. using classroom or on-the-job training).  Given that people do not become established CROs overnight, an incremental approach to competence development is needed, progressing from beginners to established and then to advanced CROs. Guidance is provided on the formulation of an incremental approach to development, combining taught and structured on the job learning.

As the training of CROs is an expensive undertaking, the third challenge is retaining CROs once they are in post.  There are many aspects of retaining people. This guide firstly focuses on providing CROs with a structured route for advancement, providing people with the scope for further development once they are in post. Learning and further qualification opportunities may be provided and CROs encouraged and enabled to make use of these opportunities. In addition, creating a positive working environment through practical procedures, ergonomic equipment, supportive supervision and change management all contribute to staff retention as well as help reduce operator error.

The guidance is consistent with common models of competence management, but offers guidance that is specific to CROs.  This guide presents a full lifecycle view of CROs, from the creation of a pool of candidates to advancement of their competence when in post.  Extensive annexes provide practical tools, such as checklists for assessing the organisation’s arrangements for managing CRO competence, job aids for identifying CRO competencies, as well as example CRO competencies (and methods for training and assessment of those competencies) for routine, infrequent, abnormal and emergency operations.

This publication will be of interest for those who have a responsibility for ensuring the competence of CROs, including managers and supervisors of CROs and relevant members of human resources, talent management and learning and development teams.

How to access this publication

Guidance on ensuring control room operator (CRO) competence (1st edition, December 2014), available as a free download, or priced hard-copy publication.  After following the link, sign in to the website to download.

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