and Drainlayers Board
Supervising is one of the key ways the health and safety of the public is protected. It ensures that people who have less experience in the trades work under the supervision of experienced practitioners who can teach and guide them. Supervisors are responsible for making sure work is done safely and correctly.
Who needs to be supervised?
All people carrying out restricted work other than certifiers must work under supervision.
- Provisional licence holders
- Limited certificate trainees (trainee)
- People working under exemptions (exempt person)
Good supervision has many positive impacts. It leads to better tradies, safer work and a good reputation for the profession.
The two most important aspects of good supervision are:
- having a good supervision relationship; and
- having the right systems and processes in place to record and monitor how supervision is being carried out.
A supervisor is responsible for the supervision relationship. Having a good working relationship will protect both them and their supervisee. The supervisor should be clear with their supervisee about what they expect of them, what they can and cannot do (including the consequences if they do things they shouldn’t), and how the supervision relationship will work. They should have regular discussions with their supervisee about how the relationship is going and give them feedback on how they are progressing. Most importantly, a supervisor should be approachable and available to their supervisee.
Having good systems and processes for managing supervision and keeping good records of what is happening will help protect both the supervisor and the supervisee. A supervisor should record things like the length of time the supervisee has been working, the types of work they have done, their level of competence and confidence with the different types of work, any formal training they have done, any areas of concern, and any areas for development. Records should also be kept of the discussions the supervisor has had with the supervisee and the things they talked about. And if the supervisor and supervisee are not in an employment relationship, there should be a written supervision agreement between them as well.
Good supervision records will allow the supervisor to have a better understanding of their supervisee’s capabilities and reduce the likelihood that they will be sent to a job without the right level of supervision and support. Records will also help if the supervisor is ever required to show how they are carrying out supervision and meeting their supervision responsibilities.
As a supervisor, you must determine what level of direction and control to use for your supervisee on every job.
If your supervisee is an apprentice in their first 12 months or is working under an exemption in their first 24 months, they must only work in your presence or the presence of another Tradesman or Certifier you have appointed to supervise them.
For any other supervisees, you must assess the job, the health and safety risks and your supervisee’s skills and experience and determine what level of supervision they need.
You are legally responsible for:
- Approving your status as the supervisor for apprentices, exemption holders, journeyman, and tradesmen
- testing the work of an exempt person
- testing your supervisee’s work for the purposes of certification or verification
- notifying the Board in writing if you stop supervising any person
- making sure your supervisee can produce their authorisation card on demand if requested
- making sure an exempt person doing gasfitting work does not work on live gas
- knowing what work your supervisee is doing at all times
- monitoring your supervisees skills and knowledge and providing them with on-going guidance and training.
A supervisee cannot:
- work if your supervisor has not approved their supervision of you
- test your work if you are working under an exemption
- test your work for the purposes of certification or verification
- work if your supervisor has notifying the Board in writing they are no longer supervising you
- work on live gas if you are working under an exemption.
While not prohibited, the Board does not support supervision arrangements where the supervisor and supervisee are in different locations. Even with the best systems in place, things can go wrong and it is important that a supervisor can easily meet with their supervisee in person to deal with any problems. Regular face to face engagement is also an important part of teaching, monitoring and guiding supervisees. Modern technology is useful but is no substitute for being with another person and truly getting a sense of their competence and capabilities.
Situations where the supervisor and supervisee don’t work together
There are greater risks around supervision where the supervisor and the person they are supervising do not work together. In such situations, the right systems and processes will be critical to ensuring supervision is carried out properly and that both the supervisor and the supervisee are protected.
Non-work supervision arrangements should be covered by a written agreement which clearly sets out the expectations and obligations of each party and the processes that will be followed to carry out supervision. This should cover not only how the supervisor will determine what level of supervision will be required for each job, but all the other aspects of the supervision relationship as well such as how monitoring, support, guidance and training will happen.
All employers are required by law to have an employment agreement with their employees. The Board recommends that all employment agreement cover what after-hours work a supervisee can carry out and under what conditions.
If after-hours work is allowed, the agreement should state that it can only be done with the supervisor’s knowledge and approval. In addition, any employer who does allow after-hours work should have a discussion with their insurance provider regarding cover for such work. If after-hours work is not permitted, the contract should forbid the employee from carrying out after-hours work. This will mean that any after-hours work that their employee carries out will be unsupervised and, as a consequence, will be unauthorised work.
Supervision comes up regularly in disciplinary hearings before the Board. Some of the causes of supervisions failings in disciplinary cases have been mistakes on the supervisor’s part, poor decision-making, ignorance of supervision responsibilities, and disregard for supervision responsibilities.
Here are some key learnings from recent disciplinary cases dealing with supervision:
- A supervisor cannot rely on a supervisee telling them what work they are doing. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to know what work their supervisee is doing and ensure they are only doing work that is within their competency.
- It is not a defence to a charge of failing to properly supervise for a supervisor to say they did not know their supervisee was doing the work.
- A supervisor must have proper systems and processes in place to manage supervision. They must be able to show what these systems are and how they demonstrate the supervisor is carrying out their supervision responsibilities properly.
- Supervisors must be aware of when trainees they are supervising are still within their first 12 months of working and exempt people are still within their first 24 months and can therefore only work in their presence.
- Supervisors cannot nominate or allow a trainee or exempt person to supervise others on their behalf.
- Gasfitting supervisors cannot rely on tests results from a trainee to certify a gas installation. They must either be present and observe the trainee carrying out the testing or repeat the testing themselves.
- Supervisors need to ensure their supervisees have current licences and authorisations.