To do any job to the best of your ability, you have to be properly trained. Whether you’re manufacturing automotive parts, building cabinets on a construction site or driving an 18-wheeler, you need to know what to do and what not to do to stay safe.
But with so many employees performing different tasks, how can safety professionals ensure that each employee has the knowledge they need to do their jobs safely?
Here are four tips to get you started on developing a safety, health and environmental training program that meets the needs of your workforce.
1. Look at the Bigger Picture
To develop an effective training program, it helps to first take a broader view of training and identify how it fits into your existing safety and health management system and your organization as a whole.
“The first step is to integrate safety training into your overall safety and health program,” says Jeff Dalto, senior learning and development specialist at Convergence Training and a member of the ANSI/ASSP Z490 Committee. “I would encourage people to remember that training is part of the entire learning experience at a workplace.”
When integrated into your existing safety and health management system, safety training can support and strengthen initiatives already underway.
Looking at safety and health training from an organizational perspective means examining the resources and personnel in place to support your program and building a training infrastructure around that. This includes identifying the capabilities of your personnel, such as who has training expertise or understands regulatory requirements, as well as the capabilities of your facility, such as what IT tools are available and whether you have a physical space to hold the training.
Examining safety and health training at this higher level can help ensure that you have the appropriate staffing and resources in place to provide the best possible training for your workers, and that individuals across the organization are responsible and accountable for different aspects of the training program.
“Make sure your organization has strategies in place for the management of your program, for your training processes and ultimately for the evaluation of your training design, delivery and effectiveness,” says Dalto.
2. Communicate and Collaborate With Your Employees
Providing workers the training they need to be safe and successful requires a knowledge of the hazards and risks they face, as well as an understanding of how they learn. That’s why Dalto encourages a collaborative approach when developing your safety training program.
“I’m a big proponent of making sure your employees are more involved in the design, development and evaluation of your training materials,” says Dalto. “Make sure you’re familiar with the workers and their work areas and collaborate based on that.”
Engaging with your employees in this way provides valuable insight into the hazards and risks workers face in their day-to-day tasks, as well as how they learn. You can then tailor your training and delivery methods to best meet their needs.
Dalto adds that safety observations, safety audits, job hazards analyses and incident investigations are also useful resources. It’s also important to note that you should gather worker feedback throughout the process of developing your program, determining your learning objectives and selecting your delivery method.
3. Develop Clear Learning Objectives
Before you develop your training, you have to know what you want your learners to achieve. Establishing clear learning objectives sets the foundation for how you conduct your training as well as how you measure its effectiveness.
“A learning objective is the thing you want your learners to be able to do when the training is over,” says Dalto. “Normally, when you’re creating a solid learning objective, you’re teaching a skill.”
The data gathering conducted in the first two steps of this process will guide you in developing learning objectives. That information will offer insight into the processes and procedures currently in place and was you can train workers to operate safely and mitigate the hazards and risks associated with their day-to-day work.
Learning objectives also inform the best delivery method for the training itself, be it instructor-led training, field-based training, online training or some other method.
4. Evaluate and Improve Your Program
Like any other element of a safety and health management system, safety training should always focus on continuous improvement and adapting to the changing needs of your workforce.
“The whole purpose of evaluating training is to make sure it’s working and then make it better,” Dalto says. “Even if you think you’re training is working well, you should always be in a plan-do-check-act continuous improvement loop.”
Dalto encourages safety professionals to spend time with their workforce after the training is over to gauge its effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. Furthermore, although safety professionals often focus on being trainers, they should be performance improvement experts to identify non-training reasons why workers aren’t applying knowledge or skills on the job.
“It’s important to remember that people can often pass a test two minutes after a training and then not be able to do it one day or one week later,” he says. “That’s why you want to go out in the field and find out if people are actually doing what they were taught, and if not, investigate and figure out why.”
In the end, safety and health training is all about taking what you learn from the everyday work experience and using that knowledge to create safer environments for your workers.
“Your safety training should always be informed by the work you’re doing every day,” says Dalto. “Identify the everyday hazards and risks and work together with your employees toward continuous safety and health improvement.”
Listen to our podcast with Jeff Dalto of the ANSI/ASSP Z490 Committee for further insights on safety, health and environmental training.
ANSI/ASSP Z490.1, Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health and Environmental Training
Training Tips: Z490 Series
Online vs. Conventional Safety Training Approaches
Virtual Reality: The New Pathway for Effective Safety Training
Safety Training Revisited: Effective Design & Delivery
Adult Learners: Effective Training Methods
Safety Training: The Case for a More Logical Practice