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Aug 2016

To the Point: Is your safety training program effective?


three workers on a construction site

We’ve all been there; a 3 hour-long training session that drags on as the instructor covers irrelevant information on a bland power-point slide. Did you take anything away from those training sessions? Do you remember the key points and their critical application to the job you are undertaking? Perhaps the training you experienced was on the other end of the spectrum; it was too short, and loaded with too much information. If employers want to improve the culture of safety within their workplace, then they need to make sure that training programs are working effectively. Training programs should engage employees and deliver a concise message that shapes an employee’s perspective on a given topic. If safety is the desired result of change, then training is the conduit through which that change occurs.

Training realities

Job and safety training should be a focal point of companies seeking to promote a safe workplace, but is it actually? Companies across the nation spend very little time training their employees. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that companies with fewer than 100 employees spent less than 15 minutes on training every 6 months. If that’s not surprising enough; companies that employ between 100 and 500 employees average 6 minutes or less of training in a 6 month period.

What about the employees? How do they feel about the amount of training they are receiving? Well, out of over 4,000 surveyed workers more than 75% said they desired more training. So, not only are employees receiving only minutes of training every year, but many of them desire more training than is being offered.

Why hold back on training?

Companies may mitigate training in the workplace for a variety of reasons. Arguably, money is a large factor. Training costs money. Not only to develop a training program and curriculum, but also to pay employees for time spent in training. There is also the lost time to account for as employees in training are not working their jobs. Companies may also find it easier to simply hire new employees if jobs are done inefficiently, or with poor quality. Obviously, this could be the answer to dealing with a sole deficient employee. However, if multiple workers are struggling, then training may be the answer.

Ways to improve training programs

No, the answer to a lack of training is not to heap hours of new training on employees. Rather, the goal is to create training programs that use a variety of tactics in order to instill knowledge and technique amongst workers. So how is this done?

  1. Don’t get wordy:  Long, drawn out training sessions are counter-productive. Training should be concise, and should cover necessary topics without unnecessary adage.
  2. Encourage Managerial Leadership: Training doesn’t always have to take place in ‘training sanctioned’ time periods. Inspiring managers to teach, share knowledge, and lead their employees can boost employee morale and engagement.
  3. Make training flexible: If training is making employees feel stressed and overburdened, then it is not being used effectively. Companies should, to the best of their ability, make training convenient for employees. Piling training requirements on top of existing job requirements can stress employees too much.
  4. New employee mentorship: New employees should be guided personally by some sort of mentor. This is especially applicable to jobs that require manual processes, or make use of potentially dangerous equipment. Employees should feel completely comfortable operating all machinery and equipment before they use it without supervision.
  5. Teach effectively: Everyone learns differently. The best way to teach is to include elements that appeal to a variety of learning styles. For example, include visual aids and demonstrations for those who are visual learners. Hands on (kinesthetic) learners will benefit from performing ‘practice’ actions, whereas auditory learners may appreciate audible guiding and direction.  

Improving the training in your workplace is a stepping stone to creating a safe work environment.  In the long run, effective training will cut down on workplace injuries, accidents, and costly mistakes. If you cut corners with training, then expect to see shortcomings in the safety of your work environment. If you want to put safety first, then you need to put training first.

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