Make sure your safety training pays dividends

If you’re managing a plant or factory, you’re surely aware of OSHA regulations and the broader framework of legal requirements surrounding industrial operation and worker safety. You may already see the value in some of these activities, where business interests and regulatory requirements coincide.

02/15/2008


If you’re managing a plant or factory, you’re surely aware of OSHA regulations and the broader framework of legal requirements surrounding industrial operation and worker safety. You may already see the value in some of these activities, where business interests and regulatory requirements coincide. But sometimes these connections are less apparent. The difference depends on what kind of response your company makes. Is mandatory safety training adding value to your business?

Ask a frontline worker what they think of mandated safety training and you may hear some rather unflattering descriptions. Workers may believe that such training is irrelevant, boring, impractical and even unnecessary. Management might even feel the same way, but there is a better way to train.

Getting started

Begin by expecting more from your training time. As long as training is considered a liability and not an investment in your organization, it is unlikely that the results will indicate otherwise. Boring lectures or videos are not your only options: a broad range of training programs and styles are used to address safety issues. The cost of implementing new training methods must be weighed against the losses incurred by not using training time effectively. Before taking workers off the job to talk about safety, you need to know what the message is, and how you will convey the importance and content of that message.

Raising expectations does not just mean packing in information. This goal has more to do placing information in accessible contexts. One consideration is format. A lecture or a handout might tell your workers about safety, but will they retain the message? Involvement and interaction multiplies the chances for this to happen. The method has to get their attention and the content needs to hold it.

Safety training has to cover certain topics, but there is little value in listing them all off to meet a legal requirement if workers do not actually adapt safe practices. The challenge is in finding training programs and methods that reach your workers where they are without being condescending to them. Walking the line between relevant and overly casual might be difficult, but the rewards are there. One critical concern here is finding training that does not rely on a single instructional format. Classroom-only training is notorious for being perceived as unrelated to real work environments.

Evaluating a program

So how can your training go beyond compliance and give you measurable gains in productivity, reliability and uptime? Effective training doesn’t just cover legal bases, but changes the way your work force gets the job done. Some questions to ask when evaluating a proposed program or reevaluating existing measures include: