Training constitutes one of the pillars of a successful occupational safety and health (OSH) program. It contributes to foster a safety culture and reduce risks of incidents. But simply providing training is not enough.
OSH training must be effective and relevant by making sure that workers retain what they’re thought and apply the acquired knowledge in their daily tasks. This is not as easy as it sounds because the human brain doesn’t remember everything and eventually people may forget what they learned.
What can your organization do to improve OSH training? An article by Lori Schroth and Bradley Renwick in the January 2020 edition of Professional Safety Journal (PSJ) provides some useful tips. Let’s take a look at five of them:
1) Make Orientation Smarter
New employee orientation is an important part of the training process. To make orientation smarter, the authors of the PSJ article recommend onboarding employees with the information that will benefit them the most. This includes high-level OSH topics that are relevant to all workers (e.g. OSH rules, hazards, hazard reporting process, safe work procedures).
You should also consider providing new employees with a site-specific orientation, after providing the orientation that focuses on high-level information aimed at the entire workforce. Site-specific orientation helps workers understand OSH expectations in assigned work areas. It may cover such topics as the location of emergency equipment, specific PPE requirements, OSH bulletin board locations, specific safe work procedures, and local hazards and hazard controls.
2) Include Contractors
Contractor safety is crucial to the safety of all workers on site, but contractor OSH training can sometimes be overlooked. Contracting personnel working in your organization should collaborate closely with EHS professionals and training managers to go over the scope of the work, possible hazards, and training needs.
The authors of the article recommend enhancing contractor training by inviting contractors to participate in new employee orientations, pre-job safety meetings, and other OSH training. Think about the most effective ways to ensure that contractors get appropriate OSH training and information before they start a project at your organization, the article says.
3) Conduct Needs Assessments
Conduct training needs assessments that specify training requirements for each job role and work area. Workers perform different jobs and face different hazards and work environments, which is why the training should not be the same for everyone. Compare the needed knowledge, skills, abilities and regulatory requirements against workplace risks to identify training needs.
In addition, documents such as surveys, inspection findings, and hazard analyses can help to identify trends, which in turn helps to identify additional training needs. You should document the results of the assessments and use them as a guide. The authors of the article say that needs assessments help to avoid wasting time and money for unnecessary training.
4) Document Diligently
Diligent documentation is another best practice for improving safety training programs. It is a good idea to maintain documentation for all delivered trainings. Examples of training documentation mentioned in the article include:
- Training needs assessments
- Training plans and schedules
- Qualifications of designated instructors
- Training attendances
- Copies of certifications
- Training metrics and reports provided to management
- Evaluation forms
- Measures of training effectiveness
- Annual reviews of training content
5) Evaluate the Effectiveness
Ineffective training impacts hazard recognition, the perception of risk, safety culture, compliance and decision-making, and also increases the need for retraining, the article says. This is why you should evaluate the effectiveness of the training through pre- and post-training tests or quizzes, on-the-job evaluations, informal supervisor observations, and OSH perception surveys. The evaluations help to determine if the knowledge and skills obtained from the training are being retained and used at work.
In addition, the article suggests that companies launch employee feedback surveys to learn more about employee opinions and perceptions of the training topics, instructors, locations and methods of delivery. Recommendations for improvement should also be asked.
Follow these five tips to drive improvements in your workplace safety and health training.
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