It’s a requirement of organisations to train their employees and these efforts should reflect in their attitudes to safety. However, many health and safety professionals and trainers grapple with the problem of changing attitudes to encourage employees to ‘own’ safety. It’s a problem of training that improves knowledge of safety risks but has little impact on behaviour.
For this article, we review some recent research that investigates changes in attitudes to safety after employees complete mandatory site safety training. The study finds that only minor safety attitude changes occur after this training. These changes include improvements in knowledge of safety risks and a better intention to behave safely but not caring any more about safety as an issue. If employees don’t care about safety after they complete mandatory training, how can we address this problem?
What Impact Do Adult Learning Principles Have?
The study uses the construction industry as the backdrop of the discussion to highlight safety attitudes. The latest available statistics show that in Australia there were 37 fatalities in the construction industry in 2015 and 35 in the UK. In China, there were 3,000 construction workers killed due to work-related accidents.
Training to improve employees’ attitudes to safety is a critical factor and a top priority for managers in the construction industry. There is evidence that training underpinned by adult learning principles can improve safety climate, perceptions and behaviour on construction projects. However, it’s that key ingredient of using adult learning methods that’s the most important. When we don’t pay any mind to how adults learn, training fails to make a difference.
We can best support adult learning principles with technology. Web-based tools such as e-learning, video, virtual reality and interactive methods enhance safety training. Language proficiency and literacy are supported best with visual tools such as animation and images. Using innovative learning techniques encourages engagement with the content that can assist in transferring knowledge into the workplace.
Work-based training which provides people with direct experience of workplace processes and safety incidents can be a compelling way to improve attitudes to safety.
See our article, Why Your Safety Training is Not Working
The Construction Industry is Reluctant to Invest in Safety Training
Safe Work Australia surveyed 1,052 employers and 1,311 employees to find that 39% of construction employers do not provide any work health and safety training for their employees. The report shows that the construction industry invests less in safety training than many other lower-risk industries such as retail and catering and is not on par with other priority industries. Time and cost pressures are given as the reasons why and many view training as a burden. Smaller firms argue that they have limited resources to invest in training.
Interestingly, construction firms spend relatively more time than any other high-priority industry creating Safe Work Method Statements, but at the same time report a significantly higher level of safety incidents than most.
Furthermore, the survey reveals that 25% of all construction employees routinely accepted risk-taking as a normal part of their work. Construction employers are much more likely to regard risks as unavoidable in the workplace with minor incidents as a normal part of daily work. They also believe that construction workplaces do not suit those overly concerned about being injured. The survey shows that 26% of construction workers accept risk-taking at work and 14% suggest that they would break safety rules to complete work on time.
How Important Are Employee Attitudes to Safety?
Employee attitudes to safety not only determine whether they behave safely in the workplace, but they will also accept and adhere to formal workplace instructions. Safety attitudes also influence whether they will take the initiative to implement informal practices where necessary to improve safety.
Safety attitudes vary according to age. Older workers are more inclined to demonstrate positive attitudes to safety than younger workers. Young workers see safety risks as an inherent part of the job because they believe they have no influence on how the work can be performed.
Past behaviour affects employee attitudes to safety. If someone performs a construction task safely, then this will positively influence their knowledge of how to undertake a task safely and they are more likely to repeat this behaviour. Conversely, when an employee takes shortcuts and performs a task unsafely with little or no consequence they are likely to continue with this behaviour.
Does the Level of Engagement Affect the Training Outcomes?
The study found that gender, age and education all affect safety attitudes. When developing safety training programs we need to pay more attention to tailoring programs to the demographic characteristics of the people being trained. We also need to use new interactive and immersive technologies based on adult-learning principles.
The level of interaction and engagement affects learner buy-in and changes to safety behaviour after the training. Good safety training is not just competency development it develops an emotional connection with the subject.
See our article, How to Engage Your Employees in Safety Training.
This is where Tap into Safety can help. The workplace safety training on the Tap into Safety Platform is highly engaging and underpinned by sound adult learning principles. The training uses realistic panoramic scenes where employees engage and respond to hazards in the scenes to learn about effective safe behaviour. Because the training requires decision-making from the employee there is an emotional connection with the content. The training courses provide succinct and relevant information, using simple text and concepts that are immediate and ‘to-the-point’.
Tap into Safety takes training seriously. We provide engaging methods to train how to manage workplace hazards using critical control measures. We understand that relevant and engaging safety training is crucial for the transfer of knowledge into practice. Contact Us for more information.
See our article, Key Work Health and Safety Messages.