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Course 721 - Developing OSH Training

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Is Training the Answer?

Addressing the Cause

The first step in the training process is a basic one; ask questions to determine if a problem can be solved by training. Whenever employees are not performing their jobs safely, we might assume training will bring them up to standard.

Let's say your supervisor comes to you and says his or her employees are not using safe procedures. The first assumption might be that they need training. Don't roll over and agree with that assumption. It's quite possible that training (for those employees anyway) may not be the solution to the problem.

It is possible the supervisor and/or others in the organization may need to accomplish one or more of the following non-training strategies to help make sure employees use safe procedures and practices:

  • Correct existing hazards using engineering controls
  • Provide adequate resources to work safely
  • Adequately enforce safety rules

Who knows, maybe the supervisor and others need the training! Let's not always assume employee safety training is the solution for unsafe behavior.

How Training Works

Worker training is essential to every employer´s safety and health program. The time and money it takes to train workers is an investment that pays off in fewer workplace accidents and lower insurance premiums. Effective training also helps inexperienced workers, who tend to have higher injury and illness rates than experienced workers.

Ideally, safety and health training should occur before exposure or accidents occur. Training should cover both general safety and health rules and specific work procedures, and should be repeated if an observation, near-miss incident or injury accident occurs due to a lack of knowledge or skills. Problems that can be addressed effectively by training include those that arise from lack of knowledge of a work process, unfamiliarity with equipment or incorrect execution of a task.

Training isn't as likely to help if workers lack...

  • Cultural support. If the culture doesn't support training, the worker is less likely to follow procedures that were trained.
  • Proper motivation. If the worker doesn't care about the job, no amount of training will help.
  • Attention to the job. To be successful the worker must pay attention to the job. I call this being "sober and focused."

You can argue that the underlying culture influences a worker's motivation and attention to the job, and I think you would have a good argument. Whatever its purpose, training is most effective when designed in relation to the goals of the employer´s total safety and health program.

No amount of training is likely to improve workplace safety unless you make it part of an effective, integrated Safety and Health Program.

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Current Safety Performance

Before we can determine if a discrepancy is caused by a lack of knowledge, skills or abilities, we need to accurately describe the actual safety performance. For example, we might describe a safety performance discrepancy as, "failure to perform proper lockout/tagout procedures."

If, in our analysis, we discover the employee demonstrates a lack of knowledge, skills or abilities, then training is the answer. Non-training actions are not appropriate.

I think it is wise to assume that a new employee in your organization may require comprehensive safety training. To find out if they meet your standards, test what they know and can do. If they need training, give it to them before first exposure to hazards. Experienced current employees may only require training on new procedures or machinery. Again, if in doubt, "test them out!"

If you discover there is not a lack of knowledge, skills or abilities, training is likely not the answer. It is appropriate to use non-training corrective strategies to raise performance levels.

For instance, discipline may be appropriate if an employee fails to wear eye protection as required and it is determined that he or she has been trained, knows how to use the eyewear, understands the safety rules and consequences, but has made the decision not to wear the eye protection. I emphasize "may" because root cause analysis may uncover a system weakness that allows the unsafe behavior. If the system fails the employee, fix the system.!

To help figure out the appropriate solution, you can the use the checklist on the next page. The checklist takes you through the decision-making process to determine one or more intervention options: training, resources, supervision, enforcement, and leadership.

Safety Training Decision Tree

____ Are employee knowledge, skills and ability (KSAs) sufficient?

  • Yes. The employee has demonstrated adequate knowledge and skills to accomplish the task to standard. Go to the Non-Training Options checklist below.
  • No. The employee does not have adequate knowledge and/or skills to accomplish the task to standard. Go to the Training Options checklist.

Training Options Checklist

____ Has the employee performed the task before?

  • Yes. Continue to the next question.
  • No. New employees and employees transferred to new jobs need to be formally trained before they perform any tasks that might cause injury. Conduct formal training.

____ Is the task accomplished often?

  • Yes. The employee accomplishes the task regularly. Provide feedback. Observe the task and provide one-on-one feedback on any discrepancies.
  • No. The task is rarely accomplished. Examples might be tasks requiring the use of fire extinguishers, confined space rescue, or chemical spill procedures. Conduct practice. It's important to practice tasks from time to time when it's normally not required.

Safety Training Decision Tree (Continued)

Non-Training Options Checklist

____ Are resources and support adequate?

  • Yes. Management provides adequate physical resources and psychosocial support. Employees are provided with safe tools, equipment, machinery, workstations, facilities. Workloads, pressure to perform, stress and work schedules are reasonable. Evaluate other options.
  • No. The employee lacks the physical resources and/or psychosocial support to perform to standard. Employees are NOT provided with safe tools, equipment, machinery, workstations, facilities. Workloads, pressure to perform, stress and work schedules are not reasonable.
  • Provide the necessary resources and support to ensure employees are able to perform to safety standards.

____ Is safety supervision/management adequate?

  • Yes. Supervisors/managers effectively detect and correct hazards/unsafe behaviors before they result in injury or illness. Evaluate other options.
  • No. Supervisors fail to effectively detect and correct hazards/unsafe behaviors before they result in injury or illness. Supervisors may lack training, looking the other way or otherwise ignore unsafe conditions and/or behaviors. Ensure adequate design and performance of supervisor safety plan to ensure supervisors are effectively trained and held accountable for performing safety responsibilities.

____ Is safety enforcement adequate?

  • Yes. An effective process exists to ensure employees are administered progressive discipline (when justified) for failing to comply with the employer's safety policies, procedures and rules. Supervisors insist that all employees comply. Evaluate other options.
  • No. Management fails to ensure employees are administered progressive discipline, when justified, for failing to comply with the employer's safety policies, procedures and rules. Supervisors merely encourage, not insist, that all employees comply. Design and implement an effective safety accountability program.

____ Do supervisors and managers comply with safety policies and rules?

  • Yes. Supervisors and managers set the proper leadership example by complying with safety policies and rules. Supervisors communicate through word and deed that job security depends on working safe...not fast.
  • Evaluate other options.
  • No. Supervisors and managers do not set the proper leadership example by not complying with safety policies and rules. The words and actions of management lead employees to believe their job security depends on working fast, not safe. Design and implement an effective management leadership plan that includes supervisor/management safety responsibilities training.

Instructions

Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. The first step in the training process is a basic one; to determine _____.

2. Training isn't likely to help which of the following?

3. Ideally, safety and health training should occur _____ exposure or accidents.

4. Before we can determine if a discrepancy is caused by a lack of knowledge, skills or abilities, we need to _____.

5. According to the training decision tree, if an employee has frequently performed the task before, the trainer needs to _____.


Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.

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