Resources - Education and Training

Education and Training: What's the Difference

John F. Rekes, PE, CIH, CSP, says it well:

"Education is a process through which learners gain new understanding, acquire new skills, and/or change their attitudes." The educational process can be quite complex and learning usually takes place on many levels. An educational program can be successful even if the learners can't do anything new or different at the end of the program...

Training is a more specialized form of education that focuses on developing or improving skills. While training incorporates educational theories, principles and practices, its focus is on performance. The goal of training is for learners to be able to do something new or better than before."

Source: Is Your Training Program Effective? Occupational Hazards

According to the American Society for Training and Development, training and development focuses on identifying, assessing and, through planned learning, helping develop the key competencies (knowledge, skill, attitudes - SKA's) that enable individuals to perform current or future jobs.

Safety education explains the "why"

The term, "educate," originates from the Latin, Ed-u-cer-e, (ey-doo-ker-ey) and means, "that which leads out of ignorance." Education is actually anything that affects skills, knowledge and attitudes. In the safety arena, education primarily explains general principles and concepts. But one of the most important purposes of safety education is to inform learners why safety is important by emphasizing the natural and system consequences of behavior. Safety education describes the who, what, where, and when, but most importantly, it explains "why" safety is so important. Safety education informs, persuades, and motivates. We become educated in safety in many ways including:

  • Personal experience - where the real education occurs.
  • Formal classroom training - great for gaining knowledge.
  • On-the-Job Training - best for gaining new skills.

General instruction does not normally require any test to measure competency because the student isn't necessarily learning how to perform a task, be it a safe procedure or practice.

Safety education explains the natural and system consequences of performance

The more we understand the importance of safety procedures and practices, the more likely we will use them. We gain an understanding of natural and system consequences that result from working safe (using safe procedures and practices). So, Let's take a closer look at natural and system consequences.

Natural Consequences

Natural consequences describe the naturally occurring consequences as a result of personal and organizational performance. These consequences result in some form of hurt or health to the employee and the organization. The employee or the organization are punished or rewarded by their choices and the behaviors in which they engage: They "do it to themselves."

Educating employees on the natural consequences of their personal behavior helps the employee understand how their failure to use safe procedures and practices will result in injuries and illnesses. Additionally, the employee will understand how working safe results in physical and mental health. Examples of natural consequences to the employee include:

  • Suffering a strain as a result of using improper lifting techniques
  • Chronic illness from continual exposure to hazardous substances
  • Increased stress resulting from an unreasonable workload

The organization will also experience the natural consequences of its behavior. Poor design and performance of the safety management system and culture will naturally result in an unsafe and unhealthful workforce. On the other hand, effective safety management systems and cultures naturally result in a workplace the experiences safe and healthful conditions. Examples of natural consequences of organizational behavior include:

  • High accident rate due to a lack of adequate supervision
  • High productivity resulting from effective recognition
  • Low morale due to unreasonable workloads

Gary, a recent student wrote, "I stress to my co-workers that a life jacket is mandatory on deck. We hired a young guy who was a swimmer in college. He thought his swimming skills were such that he did not need the jacket. We educated him on hypothermia and that he could not save himself if he fell over in 35 degree water. Once he understood the facts, he wore the jacket at all times, because he wanted to, not because he had to."

System Consequences

System consequences describe the actions taken by another person or external organization as a result of personal and organizational performance. In this case, we are punished or rewarded by someone else for the choices we have made. It's important to educate employees on system consequences of performance when they are hired. It's even more important that new employees management "walking-the-talk" when it comes to administering positive and negative system consequences. Examples of system consequences to the employee include:

  • Disciplinary action for safety rule violation.
  • Informal verbal recognition for a job well done.
  • Formal tangible rewards for active participation in a safety committee.

Equally important is educating management on the system actions of organizational behavior. Managers need to know how the effectiveness of the design and performance of the safety management system may impact how external regulatory and the community react. System consequences to the employer might include:

  • OSHA citations and penalties assessed as a result of an inspection.
  • Civil/Criminal law suits after a fatality.
  • Higher insurance costs due to more frequent accidents.
  • Industry recognition for excellence in safety.

Safety training primarily shows "how"

Safety training, as stated earlier, is one of the specialized forms of education that focuses primarily on showing employees "how" to accomplish a particular task safely. It increases knowledge primarily to improve/change skills. Some examples of specific safety training include teaching employees how to:

  • conduct lockout/tagout procedures
  • use fire extinguishers
  • write labels on chemical containers
  • write safety committee recommendations
  • enter a confined space
  • conduct a safety inspection

Technical safety training primarily teaches employees how to complete a safe procedures or practice. The intent of OSHA law requires that these safety "how-to's" normally include a test or evaluation to make sure employees can demonstrate (prove) adequate knowledge and skills.

Source: Steven Geigle, CET, CSHM

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Copyright ©2000-2019 Geigle Safety Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Federal copyright prohibits unauthorized reproduction by any means without permission. Disclaimer: This material is for training purposes only to inform the reader of occupational safety and health best practices and general compliance requirement and is not a substitute for provisions of the OSH Act of 1970 or any governmental regulatory agency. CertiSafety is a division of Geigle Safety Group, Inc., and is not connected or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).