Workplace Safety

When Training Isn’t in the Safety Budget

By Jennifer Busick

In yesterday’s Advisor, we discussed some training job trends in the environment, health, and safety (EHS) space. Today, guest columnist Jennifer Busick looks at what you can do if workplace safety training gets back-burnered when funds run low.

Training is not just a matter of cash outlay, it’s also a matter of scheduling and pulling workers from production.

Some training, like hazard communication training for new workers, may be a regulatory requirement—but other training may fall by the wayside, either because there are no funds to pay outside trainers, or because it’s difficult to justify sparing critical personnel from production tasks for training.

Low-Cost Training Ideas

Creatively provide workers with important safety information by:

  • Training “live.” If you observe a safety problem that could be addressed by training, take care of it on the spot. For example, if you see workers lifting improperly, call an impromptu training session and quickly go over proper body mechanics. It’s no more interruption of their day than gossiping over the latest episode of The Walking Dead, and it could be of far greater benefit.
  • Assigning mentors. Informal training by experienced workers is an important learning experience; make sure that new workers know who they can ask for information and that experienced workers know that it’s acceptable—expected, even—for them to look out for their peers.
  • Doing “double duty.” Incorporate training into the part of the day where a task would naturally fall. For example, while workers are putting away their safety gear and changing, do a quick review of how to properly store and care for personal protective equipment (PPE), or explain why it’s important not to track contaminants home from work. Quick reminders in an appropriate setting may even “stick” better and do more good than long sessions in a classroom.
  • Inviting suppliers. If you need training for a specific piece of equipment, your equipment supplier may be able to provide you with personnel to conduct appropriate training at no cost beyond the workers’ time.

Make sure to keep records of all training, even the impromptu assemblies, just like you would if workers were attending a formal session. Make a note of who was there, what was covered, who covered it, how long it lasted, and whether workers were able to ask questions. Even a “toolbox talk” carries weight with an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector for many subjects.

Go Ahead and Spend the Money

Of course, there are some types of training you need to go ahead and pay for, even when funds are tight. Go ahead and spend the money on:

Training for new and temporary workers. These two groups are at increased risk of serious injury, which can result in serious costs. Make sure that all new and temporary workers receive a thorough safety orientation.

Required certifications and CEUs. If you have personnel who must, by law, hold valid certifications in order to do their jobs, don’t let those expire. Make sure those workers get their required training on schedule. Likewise, you should fund continuing education units for any professional whose job requires them.

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