Water Journal : Water Journal December 2013
DECEMBER 2013 WATER 39 Feature Article As waterborne chemical and pathogen public health risks are better understood, and water treatment technology continues to evolve, the role of the water treatment operator becomes ever more challenging. John Harris of Wannon Water and Kathy Northcott from Veolia Water Australia, look at the journey towards implementation of a Victorian drinking water operator competency and certi cation framework and implications for a future national certi cation scheme. Victoria's Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 and Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2005 utilise a 'catchment-to-tap' risk-based approach to the management of drinking water quality. A crucial component of this is the use of multiple water treatment processes (the 'multi-barrier' approach). Management of multi-barrier treatment processes requires a certain skill set, knowledge and competency standard among drinking water operators. On a day-to-day basis it is the operator who is responsible for ensuring water is treated to the required standard and that risks are adequately managed. DRINKING WATER OPERATOR COMPETENCY IN VICTORIA In September 2010 the Victorian Department of Health (Department of Health) issued the Victorian Framework for Water Treatment Operator Competencies -- Best Practice Guidelines (the Guidelines). They were developed as a collaborative effort between the Department of Health and members of the Victorian Water Industry Association (VicWater). The Guidelines were developed using several collaborative committees, of which Wannon Water was a member. The Guidelines de ne the minimum training, quali cation and competency standards that operators must attain and maintain in order to operate drinking water treatment facilities in the state of Victoria. An important aspect of the Guidelines is the development of an operator certi cation scheme that recognises the competency of water operators and certi es that they meet the minimum competency requirements detailed in the Guidelines. Part of these minimum requirements requires that operators have undertaken formal training on the unit processes they are responsible for managing. The Water Industry Operators Association of Australia (WIOA) has the rst such certi cation scheme endorsed by the Department of Health, which certi es operators under the Guidelines and then re-certi es them every three years, using an evidence-based points system for ongoing training and professional development. THE STRUCTURE OF THE GUIDELINES The Guidelines are comprised of ve parts: 1. Assessment of microbial risk associated with individual water supply systems. 2. Minimum levels of competence required to work at individual water treatment facilities based on risk analysis and process steps. 3. A gap analysis that details how closely a water business meets the requirements of the Guidelines. From this an action plan is developed to achieve the required levels of operator competency within the review and implementation cycle of the Guidelines. 4. Assessment of the capability of the water treatment processes to manage identi ed microbial risks. 5. Review of risks, treatment capability and operator gap analysis and establishment of a new action plan upon commencement of each new cycle of the Guidelines. All of these actions must be carried out for each water treatment plant and a report submitted to the Department of Health on all aspects of the Guidelines. The actions are repeated for each water treatment plant once every three years, to capture any changes to risk classi cation, treatment capability and/or operator competency and training requirements. THE WIOA CERTIFICATION SCHEME The aim of the Certi cation Scheme is to verify that an operator meets the minimum competency requirements of the Guidelines and is, therefore, by extension, quali ed and competent to perform their role in the water industry. By being certi ed the operator is recognised as having a speci c set of skills, experience and abilities. Each operator must provide evidence to show relevant industry experience, a set of relevant skills (gained through training) that are considered the minimum required for working in that particular occupation, and an ability to keep skills and knowledge current. The process of certi cation is structured as follows: Step 1. Documentation of industry experience An applicant provides documentation to show relevant experience in one of the certi cation categories (e.g. Level 3 or 4 in water). This experience must total more than three years in an operational role. DRINKING WATER OPERATORS AS HEALTH PROFESSIONALS -- THE JOURNEY TOWARDS CERTIFICATION An update on the operator certi cation scheme in Victoria Figure 1. Victorian Framework for Water Treatment Operator Competencies -- Best Practice Guidelines. Issued by the Victorian Department of Health in September 2010.
Water Journal November 2013
Water Journal February 2014