The Keys to an Effective Safety Training

By Haley Bass | 05/17/2017

If you’re a business owner, a safety director, or a risk manager, you want to maintain a safe workplace. But where do you start?

Step one. You study the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulations for your industry.

Step two. You dive deeper into common industry injuries, learning why people are getting hurt and how you can avoid it with your own workers.

Step three: TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES! You should apply all of your great research and knowledge to your workers – but just handing them a manual isn’t going to do the trick.

So how do you ensure that your employees understand how to safely do their job and avoid accidents? You develop an effective safety program in three phases: Plan, Communicate, and Execute.

Plan

An effective safety program should provide quality, essential information that empowers employees to perform their jobs safely. Avoid vague tips you could get from any safety manual – your safety program should address the specific hazards that your workforce faces.

Most training should cover the following:

  • Identifying site-specific hazards and how to handle them
  • Required personal protective equipment
  • Accident and emergency response
  • Demonstrations with equipment and machinery
  • How to handle chemicals and hazardous materials
  • Encouraging workers to identify and report hazards or unsafe practices to a supervisor
  • Informing workers of their OSHA rights
  • Keeping all work areas clear of clutter and equipment
  • Safe lifting techniques
  • How to inspect equipment and machinery for defects

Work with supervisors and experienced workers to understand the daily risks of the job. Having a good understanding of what happens on the worksite can give you better insight into what training is necessary. When the plan is developed, review it with those supervisors and workers to make sure there aren’t any gaps or if you need added clarification.

But again, you can’t just hand workers a manual and hope for the best. After the plan is finalized, you need to consider the best way to present it to the workforce.

Communicate

There are three different learning styles – visual, auditory, and hands-on – and you likely have a mix of all three in your workforce. When it comes to training, you need to keep in mind all three styles.

Studies have shown that using visuals in safety training can improve safety at construction zones. Including visuals is also helpful for foreign-born workers who don’t speak English as a first language, especially as the number of immigrant workers continues to rise in the construction industry.

While some people can follow a step-by-step guide with ease, others may benefit more from a guided demonstration. With all the equipment and machinery used in construction, hands-on training may be more effective in teaching safe usage to workers.

For auditory learners, the information won’t truly sink in until it’s been explained to them out loud. This could be as simple as a computer training where the text is read out loud, or a session with a trainer who can answer questions or explain directions in a different way.

When it comes time to perform safety training, make sure to keep these three learning styles in mind so you can accommodate your whole workforce.

Execute

You have great content and some effective visuals and demonstrations set up, so now it’s time for the training itself. There are a few factors to consider when making the execution of the plan truly effective.

Timing. Even adults have limited attention spans, so keeping your workers in a training for hours at a time is going to leave some gaps in their knowledge. Try to do training in spurts, breaking up the material with discussions and hands-on activities. Keep in mind that OSHA has some great toolbox talks available, timed at about 5-10 minutes each.

Personal benefit. If your workers think the purpose of safety is only for the benefit of the company, they aren’t going to care as much. You need to explain how safety affects them directly. Discuss the real-life consequences of getting injured on the job and how it could impact their families and their health. Make sure the benefit of safety outweighs the perceived inconvenience.

Set goals. Encourage pride in your workforce by setting company goals and objectives. Are you trying to reduce a specific type of injury? Set a goal number and motivate your workers to help the company stay below it. When people can see the fruits of their effort – like meeting a goal – they’re more motivated to continue working hard.

 

Safety training is a necessity, so you may as well do it right. Don’t skimp by doing a rush job with a vague manual – spend time developing the right plan, communication, and execution for a truly effective safety program. The more you invest into safety, the more you reduce the risk of injuries.