safety training more impactful

Continuing industrial accidents and workplace injuries are calling for organisations to make their safety training impactful. A book emanating from Europe and recently available as an open-source publication looks at safety as a profession and how to professionalise safety.

The book discusses whether organisations should incorporate their safety training into everyday practices or if it should only be a subject of specific actions, such as high-risk activities. The authors question whether that action will achieve more value and make your safety training more impactful and contextural.

We present a discussion on who benefits most from safety training: those inside or outside of the organisation, to help you get the most out of your training efforts. We discuss the need to bring safety back to basics to reflect the reality of day-to-day operations and to provide training that targets high-risk activities with practical examples. Finally, the book argues for two-way discussion flows between managers and employees to ensure rules and procedures truly reflect practice.

In doing so, you are on the road to making your safety training impactful and increasing its ability to improve safety.

Making Safety a Priority Both Inside and Outside of the Organisation

When it comes to safety, the primary goal is its effectiveness to keep employees and visitors safe. Indeed, the aim is always to try to ensure training, in all its forms, is the appropriate response to address the type of work that the organisation performs. At the same time, organisations must provide evidence to regulating authorities that they are making safety their priority. Also, public perception can make or break the success of an organisation. Especially if the media publishes a negative report on a safety failure.

Because of the need to provide evidence to others outside, organisations publically highlight their efforts to fund safety measures; they ensure they follow standards, rules and procedures; and they develop a safety culture. Interestingly, most day-to-day actions that keep employees safe are unlikely to be of use as evidence to those outside of the organisation. Instead, the activities that align with public views on risk management, for example, values, ethics, and responsibility, are the ones that gain the most attention and fulfil the requirements of accountability.

However, it’s questionable if focussing on outside responsibilities makes your safety training impactful to deliver meaningful protection for your employees. Should you spend more time looking inside your organisation and focus on what you do daily?

Aligning Safety With the Reality of Daily Operations

The problem with a focus on others outside of the organisation is that we fail to align safety training courses with safety in practice. We over-complicate our efforts, and safety training becomes theoretical and not part of the day-to-day culture. Many professional development courses train employees in designated ‘theoretical’ situations without sufficiently preparing them for the range of conditions they are likely to encounter in real life. They fail to teach them the knowledge they need to develop when they face an emergency.

The safety induction, for example, fulfils training requirements to cover health and safety responsibilities, as determined by regulators, but fails to train employees to safely navigate high-risk environments (unless organisations use interactive and immersive methodologies). And organisations can’t stop there. Because one-off safety induction training is not enough to ensure employees retain knowledge or to capture changes in work practices or their environment. Critically, many organisations struggle with making their safety induction more impactful.

See our article, How to Create a Safety Induction That Trains and Meets Compliance.

Managing the Difference Between Actual Practice and Rules and Procedures

It is critical to encourage debate between different safety professionals, supervisors and employees about the high-risk situations they encounter. Discussions should include the way they interpret them, the risks they see in them, and the solutions that seem pertinent to them. From there, any feedback you receive on implementing these solutions should flow back to the discussions in a cycle of continuous improvement to become a permanent part of each employee’s duties.

In doing so, you create an ideal opportunity to encourage those in charge of the day-to-day activities to report on their actual practices and the compromises they make between the various demands. You need to know how they relate to the standards, rules and procedures you establish. By encouraging honest discussion, employees begin to take on their responsibilities and conceive their code of ethics to make safety everyone’s business, every day.

To expect employees to implement safety rules purely leads to a disconnection between policy and practice. You should discuss safety rules for relevance, how they compare to actual work situations, what the real problems are in specific cases, how effective and valid they are, and so on. All of this should continually flow into your safety training to inform the content.

See our article, Are There Too Many Rules for Workplace Safety?

How Do You Make Your Safety Training Impactful?

To make their safety training impactful, organisations need to develop the capacity of their managers to do something with the safety complaints of their teams. Managers need to analyse the work that their employees do, its constraints, and how the teams go about doing their tasks, and to make proposals up to their line managers and down to their teams.

Improvement strategies need to change how people think about their work, how teams work together and the decisions that individuals make.  They need to lead through a coalition between line managers and supervisors on the shop floor, safety advisors and employee feedback, rather than via a sanitised training setting.  Safety training interventions need to cut to the heart of how we design and schedule work.

We need to understand how teams identify and control the hazards in practice and determine the level of exposure that we are prepared to accept for our people. To make safety training more impactful, we need to ensure it is reflective of the work environment and uses engaging and interactive material. We should develop the content with concise information on the actual ways we control hazards.

The Tap into Safety Platform offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training online and on smart devices that you can also use in your safety induction. We focus on critical risks and the common workplace hazards that can lead to a fatality or serious injury within industry-specific scenarios. If we don’t have what you need, we also build custom training content. If you’d like to know more, please contact us or click through to try a free online demo.

To Conclude

Getting that balance right between training to meet compliance obligations and making your safety training more impactful is a tricky one. Organisations concern themselves with funding safety measures, following standards, rules and procedures and developing a safety culture. However, how many of these activities make your workplace safer, especially when engaging in high-risk activities?

This article looks at a recently published book that argues for organisations to get back to basics and focus on encouraging debate between different safety professionals, supervisors and employees around high-risk work. To look at their safety rules for relevance, how they compare to actual work situations, what the real problems are in specific conditions, and how effective and valid they are. Safety training interventions need to cut to the heart of how we design and schedule work and reflect the compromises we make due to competing demands. In this way, we make safety training impactful and efficient, all the while keeping our employees safe every day.

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