Employee health and safety seems like a “given” for most organizations. Time and money are spent ensuring workers are healthy and safe, and processes seem to be operating “ok.” But oddly enough, we still hear about injuries, illnesses, and fatalities occurring at work sites throughout the world. Why are accidents still happening, and furthermore, where do gaps exists?
In the United States and United Kingdom, nonfatal injury and illnesses statistics have leveled off in recent years. Since the early 2000s, vast improvements were made and then numbers plateaued. There are a number of potential factors that explain why but for now, let’s focus on training.
Imagine for a moment, you are beginning a new career in a manufacturing environment. During your first few days, you attend meetings and learn what you will be doing within the facility. One crucial part is missing though–there was no health and safety training; or even if there was, it was mediocre at best. Once you have the opportunity to begin work on the line you realize you are not aware of many of the hazards associated with the job, the process for accident prevention, the method for hazard reporting, the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary, and overall health and safety policies, rules, procedures and training. What happens if there’s a fire or another type of emergency? What if you see another employee doing something that seems dangerous? How can you find out the safest way to perform your job? When one thinks about it from that perspective, the worker has already missed a considerable amount of pertinent information. On top of that, the organization has missed an opportunity to invest in the health and safety of its most important resource—its people.
As an employee begins a new career, the first days on the job are crucial in establishing a culture of health and safety based on continual learning, as well as providing essential health and safety information for the workplace. During this initial phase, new employees are learning not only the value of health and safety within the organization but also specific health and safety information pivotal to the overall program. Setting the right example and providing the right message for employees is essential in portraying the importance of health and safety within the organization.
Furthermore, how do we train and reinvigorate employees who have been in their respective careers for many years? Do we provide annual refresher training? What happens if their job changes? Alternatively, a process changes? Do we ensure employees are kept up-to-date?
Employees feel “valued” when an employer shows a personal interest in the overall well-being of that employee and not only in the tasks of the job. It’s easy to show the importance of the job, but when you build camaraderie with employees, and show a deeper level of care, employee morale and dedication to the overall job increases.
Additionally, effective training will aid in:
- meeting legal duties to protect employees;
- making your employees value health and safety;
- developing a positive health and safety culture, where health and safety becomes second nature; and
- making your business avoid the financial burden of accidents and ill health.
So what makes training effective?
Safety training can come in a plethora of different forms. Methods such as online training, face-to-face, hands-on, and video/paper handouts all have positive attributes for employees. Moreover, helping the employee to gain a deeper level of why the content was given and a deeper understanding of the relevancy of the content to their respective jobs assists in creating a level of care that might not otherwise be there. Forced training, whether onboarding, and/or annual refresher that seems useless and irrelevant doesn’t create value to the worker; instead it casts a shadow on the importance of the training to them. But, as the worker gains insight (such as the hazards, processes, and proper controls needed) to their jobs and the company as a whole, they learn the significance of maintaining health and safety training.
When we make health and safety training a value in our lives and not just a priority we make it a part of ourselves. Priorities have a tendency to change, while values do not. Companies that make health and safety a “priority” have an inclination to change that priority when another issue like speed, productivity, or higher revenue becomes more pressing. Every time health and safety is put on the back burner, worker’s lives are also put there. That’s why making proper health and safety training a “value” impacts us the most.
Ensuring the health and safety of workers should be the primary goal of any organization. Remember, it’s not just about pushing out training for employees to take, but it’s about making health and safety a value for their lives as well as for the company.
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