Everyone can help improve safety training

Improved training programs can contribute to better safety performance, communication and camaraderie.

By J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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When employees have the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs safely, the risk for workplace injuries and illnesses is reduced. Safety training is an important tool you use to help employees achieve safe performance.

A training program that merely tells workers the safety rules isn’t going to translate into a top-notch safety culture. Even good training can be better, and you don’t have to look very far to get help for improving your program.

Enlist managerial support

Everyone has heard that safety starts at the top. Successful safety training efforts have the support of managers and supervisors. The training program is created from investments of both money and time. Managers provide the training budget used to obtain audio video equipment, software and hardware, contracts with outside training providers and other supplies. Supervisors adjust work schedules so employees can attend training sessions.

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There are other ways to involve managers and supervisors in the training program:

  • If managers and supervisors regularly attend safety training sessions and always follow safety rules when they’re in production areas, their example inspires employees to take safety seriously;
  • If managers include evaluations of training program participation and overall safety performance on employee performance reviews, workers have more incentive to participate in and pay attention to training programs and other safety efforts;
  • If supervisors provide reports on employees’ safety performance to the safety trainer, refresher training can be targeted to where it’s needed most; and
  • When supervisors and managers have an expanded role in the training program, the program has a stronger foundation to support improvement.

Partner with employees

The safety training program doesn’t exist without employees. To improve training, let employees do more than just show up for class. Each worker has expertise and insight you can tap to improve your training program.

By using some readily available resources, your improved training program can contribute to better safety performance, communication and camaraderie.

If the same trainers always conduct the training sessions, recruit employees to serve as your resident expert speakers. These temporary teachers may not want to facilitate an entire class, but having them give short, informal presentations will perk up your classes. The trainees will pay attention to a fresh face, and they’ll be open to learn from someone who knows a job inside out.

Perhaps employees aren’t getting the most out of your training sessions because the material isn’t entirely relevant to your workers’ day-to-day experiences. Ask some of your local experts to review the training program content. They’ll likely have some suggestions on how you can update the classes to include job-specific information you weren’t aware of. Training that zeros in on the details of the job provides trainees with better information they can put to use.

A good way to evaluate your training program is to evaluate post-training employee job performance. Evaluations can be done shortly after the training program, but long-term retention and implementation of new skills is measured by evaluating employee performance several weeks or months after the training takes place.

Evaluations involve observations, and they take time to do. When you have a lot of employees, your resources are stretched pretty thin if you’re the only person doing the evaluations. One solution is to have employees participate in the evaluation program. Armed with checklists and instructions, they can provide you with valuable feedback on the long-term effectiveness of the training program. Another benefit to this approach is that the evaluation crew essentially gets refresher training while they conduct the evaluations.

Encourage lively discussions

If asking employees to help you prepare, deliver and evaluate the training program isn’t an option, there are still ways to increase employee involvement in the classroom. Employees learn more when they’re engaged in the learning process.

Some people learn by talking, so encourage classroom discussions. A good way to ensure everyone stays on topic is to structure the discussions around table top exercises and case studies. As you develop the training program, ask employees for suggestions on scenarios they’d like to explore. If you break up the class into small groups during these exercises, be sure to visit with each group to find out how well they can apply what they’re learning to the hypothetical situation.

Improve your classes by letting employees learn from each other, too. Schedule in some class time for employees to share their experiences with the topic. Don’t let your long-time veteran employees do all the talking. Newer workers can offer fresh perspectives on how things were done at their previous jobs.

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