Workplace Safety

3 Goals to Ensure Effective Safety Training

By Jennifer Busick

Training is a substantial investment of time and resources. So, naturally, you’ll want to make sure that your training is effective. Here are some goals that should be a top priority with your workplace safety training.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of your training, the first thing you’ll have to ask yourself is: What exactly would “effective” training do? Here are some goals that might suggest metrics for measuring the effectiveness of your training.

Goal 1: Regulatory Compliance

Your initial reason for providing any training might be to comply with a regulatory mandate. So, it’s important to know whether your training actually meets this goal. Make sure that your training:

  • Covers all required topics. Some Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards include lists of specific topics that must be covered in training. You should keep an outline of any training that you provide so that you can demonstrate that required topics were covered.
  • Includes all covered employees. Some required training is intended only for subgroups of employees—for example, only workers who will wear respirators need respirator training. Other training has to include all employees—for example, confined space and lockout/tagout training must be provided to all workers, although the depth of the coverage will vary depending on their exposure.

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  • Takes place at required intervals. Some training can be offered just once—when an employee first starts a job, for example, or when workers are preparing to perform a specific task—and then you’re done. Other training must be offered at intervals—annually, every 3 years, or every 5 years are common intervals. And some retraining must be offered at skills-related intervals; for example, forklift drivers must be retrained whenever they are observed operating their forklifts in a way that is unsafe.  

Goal 2: Employee Compliance

Your training should increase workers’ awareness of workplace hazards and safety measures as well as the policies and procedures that are required in order to keep them safe. So, another measurable goal is employee compliance with workplace safety rules. You might look for:

  • Compliance with specific work rules. How often were workers violating personal protective equipment  rules or work procedures before they received training? If the training was effective, the frequency of violations should go down.
  • Compliance with specific OSHA standards. Suppose that before workers received updated hazard communication training, they were failing to store chemicals properly by hazard category or were failing to keep hazardous chemical containers covered or closed while not in use. After hazard communication training, workers should be more diligent about hazardous chemical compliance, and you should see fewer infractions.

Goal 3: Improved Performance

When evaluating any safety program, employers often measure safety-related metrics such as reported accident and incident rates, injuries, and illnesses. However, your performance and productivity metrics can also be enhanced by safety-related initiatives like training. After training, look for changes in your:

  • Absenteeism. Training can reduce workers’ exposure to hazards that can cause them to miss work. For example, ergonomics training can reduce the incidence of sore backs and shoulders that can keep people away from work without a formal, work-related diagnosis. Infection control training can reduce the incidence of infectious diseases that cause missed workdays whether or not those are work-related.

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  • Quality. Following safety procedures reduces worker injuries and can also improve quality by improving workers’ attention to their jobs and their care in doing them properly. Look for improved product quality indicators in the wake of safety training.
  • Retention. Workers who receive appropriate training, including safety training, report higher levels of job satisfaction and are less likely to leave their employment. Watch for enhanced retention in the wake of safety training as a measure of effectiveness; if your workers feel that their training is enhancing their skills, they’re less likely to leave.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at ways that you can use trainee feedback to assess the effectiveness of your training.

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