Work-related activities inevitably expose employees to some risk to their health and safety. The hazards could include manual loads, heavy machinery, hazardous materials, working at heights, electrical or fire hazards, ergonomic risks, or psychological risk such as severe stress. An effective risk management program can reduce the hazards somewhat.
But the biggest risk is untrained employees.
If employees don’t know how to safely do their jobs, they could inadvertently cause a hazard to occur, potentially leading to property damage, worker injuries, and more. Effective health and safety training is the best way to ensure that workers do their jobs safely.
Workplace safety training is a systematic program designed to provide your employees with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to work in a way that keeps them and their colleagues safe and healthy. An effective safety training program also includes specific instructions and guidelines to help them identify and report any safety concerns in the workplace as well as manage any incidents that might occur.
In this article, we’ll cover why safety training is so important, and give you some tips and best practices to ensure that your workplace safety training program is as effective as you can make it.
Why Is Safety Training Important?
First and foremost, ensuring worker safety is every employer’s responsibility. And if employees don’t receive relevant safety training, the likelihood of accidents and other safety-related issues increases. There are several reasons that safety training is important, though. Here are four reasons:
1. Required by Law
The most important reason to implement a safety training program in your company is because it’s not optional. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was passed in 1970 to prevent workers from being killed or seriously injured at work. Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment for their workers, and this includes safety training. The regulations are enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and non-compliance with OSHA standards could lead to hefty fines and legal liabilities.
2. Reduced Overall Costs
An effective safety training program can reduce costs for your business in several ways:
- Higher efficiency: Safety training makes operations crystal clear and streamlined for employees, which increases productivity and cuts down indirect costs by increasing operational efficiency.
- Accident prevention: Safety training can prevent workplace accidents or injuries. This reduces costs as well; injured workers are expensive to replace and a lot of valuable time is lost in managing an incident.
- Fewer leaves of absence: Effective health and safety protocols also reduce the need for employees to take a leave of absence, which reduces the chance of disruptions to ongoing projects and increases productivity. This ultimately benefits the bottom line.
- Lower insurance premiums: Insurance companies calculate the level of risk of accidents while deciding on workers’ compensation and other insurance premiums. If your employees have good safety training, the risk of accidents is reduced, leading to lower insurance premiums.
- No fines or lawsuits: A good safety training program is one step towards covering your bases in case of an official inspection or even an accident. If you’ve done all you can to mitigate hazards and uphold OSHA standards, you are less likely to face liability lawsuits or fines from OSHA.
3. Higher Employee Satisfaction
An effective, interactive safety training program can help employees feel safe and valued, which would increase employee satisfaction and create a more positive overall company culture. In fact, employees who feel safe have higher job satisfaction and are more likely to stay at your company, which reduces turnover and its associated costs.
4. Better Company Reputation
Online forums are full of threads that discuss a company’s values and ideals, and news about any company travels fast. A robust safety policy that includes a safety training program indicates that you care about your employees and are committed to social responsibility. This would improve your company’s outreach and reputation, both in the eyes of potential clients/customers and prospective hires.
Types of Safety Training
There are different types of workplace safety training depending on who you’re training, when the training is being held, and how long the sessions last. Here are some types of safety training courses that you must have in your workplace.
Every new employee must go through induction safety training during their onboarding process. This should be designed to familiarize the employees to your workplace and its safety policies and procedures. It should provide an overview of safe working practices and procedures specific to your company such as:
- Safe use of tools, machinery, and equipment
- Fire and electrical safety procedures
- Emergency response and basic first aid training (including locations of first aid kits)
- Well-being facilities provided by your organization
- Maintenance or storage of personal protective equipment (if applicable)
While induction training is a good way to introduce employees to safety procedures, workplace safety training is not a one-and-done thing. It is easy to forget procedures if they are not regularly in use, such as emergency action plans or incident reporting procedures. So, regular refresher training seminars would help keep employees updated on safety procedures. Also, new equipment or operations may be introduced, in which case workers need to be trained again to perform new tasks safely.
Toolbox talks are short, informal workplace safety meetings (lasting only about 10-15 minutes) aimed at communicating vital safety information and facilitating regular health and safety discussions among employees. If these are held regularly and discussions among workers are encouraged, they are a good way to promote a positive safety culture throughout your company.
Safety topics related to a specific workplace activity are usually discussed during these sessions, including hazards, risk assessments, training requirements, updates to the health and safety policy, incident investigation updates (if relevant), and more.
7 Workplace Safety Training Best Practices
Creating an effective safety training program is not easy. It’s not just a lecture about being safe. If you want it to be effective and memorable enough that employees follow your policies, you need an interactive, engaging training course that takes your employees through what they need to know to work safely. Here are some best practices you need for effective safety training:
1. Identify and Control Your Hazards
Before devising your safety training program, you need to know what hazards you’re protecting your employees from.
Perform a job hazard analysis by using a team to investigate your work areas and examine hazards associated with each job and operation. Then control the hazards using a “hierarchy of controls” model to eliminate, substitute, isolate, or change hazards (in that order of priority).
When none of these is possible, require workers to use personal protective equipment to deal with the hazard. This process will give you a better idea of what to include in your safety training course.
2. Know Your Safety Training Regulations
It’s always a good idea to find out what regulatory agencies like OSHA mandate in terms of safety training requirements. This is because OSHA requirements must be followed to comply with the law. But it’s also because the regulations can set a general industry baseline for training, which you can then improve on with your own customizations.
3. Design Your Training Program Using a Streamlined Method
A good way to streamline your safety training is to use an officially validated and trusted method to deliver the training program. The national standard for Environment, Health and Safety training is ANSI Z490.1, which provides a step-by-step method to deliver safety training, evaluate its outcomes, and document the training for compliance.
4. Think About Your Employees
The aim of a great safety training program is to ensure that employees learn, retain, and remember to implement safe practices in their day-to-day operations. To make sure they “get” your training, you need to:
- Make them understand why it’s important by explaining how it will keep them safe (i.e., what’s in it for them)
- Keep their preferences in mind by asking questions like: Do they prefer self-paced online training or do they want onsite training? Do they want to be more or less involved in the training? What do they already know (and thus would be repetitive and tedious for them)?
The best way to do this is to involve the workers in the development, implementation, and later, the optimization of the training program. Ask managers, supervisors, and individual workers what they want, what they know, and what they think must be included. After all, they know best how the work gets done and what hazards they face.
5. Make It Engaging
Your training program needs to be engaging and as interesting as possible for your workers to get the most out of it. You also need to keep it simple because the more complicated it is, the harder it will be for people to understand, and you’ll lose their attention.
To make it engaging, use what you learn from talking to the workers to make the training personal to them. Your training material should include a combination of written content, pictures, video, and hands-on practice to engage your audience. Make it interactive by asking for their input during the training sessions, and asking them to share their experiences.
Finally, remember that if you give your workers too much information at once, they may get overwhelmed and not retain anything. So instead, organize your training into small chunks, teaching them a little at a time to make sure they remember it all.
6. Quiz Them Along the Way
While an engaging training program is likely to make people remember what you’ve taught them, without testing them on it, you can only hope your training has been effective. So, include quizzes or hands-on tests during the training session to check that your employees know how to perform their job safely. To make sure they retain it long-term, in addition to refresher training courses, quiz them on their knowledge regularly and conduct surprise inspections to make sure they’re implementing the training correctly.
7. Evaluate Your Training Program Regularly
As with most safety and health management systems (like your safety policy or risk management process), safety training is not a set-and-forget thing. You need to evaluate the results by observing behaviors, talking to your workers, and analyzing any incidents or near misses that follow to understand whether your training is effective or not.
Also, new hazards can arise at any time, which would require you to update your training program. For example, organizations across the world had to reevaluate their safety policies and training to include safe working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, including wearing masks for respiratory protection, updating online safety guidelines as more people had to work remotely, and more.
So make sure to evaluate your training program regularly and make changes and updates as necessary.
Use a Cloud-Based Solution to Make Your Safety Training More Effective
Creating and implementing an engaging, effective safety training program that actually works can be difficult. There are several things to keep in mind, such as scheduling the training, communicating updates to employees, creating and storing the training materials, and more. You can make your work easier by using a single online solution such as Pulpstream to communicate with employees, create and manage training resources, and deliver the training as well.
Pulpstream’s cloud-based platform can help you record and store information such as your employees’ preferences and requirements, safety regulations, and your safety policy. You can use the platform to develop and store online training materials then automatically share them with your workers. Pulpstream will help you streamline your safety training program and make it more effective than ever!
Make your training process smoother with Pulpstream. Request a free demo today!