Training employees to work safe requires a lot of thought and some hard work on behalf of the safety manager, the training manager and the training staff, or very good coordination with your 3rd party training providers, if that is how your employees are getting their required safety training. We have to ensure that the training is targeted to the skills and needs of employees and our organization. We have to ensure our training is targeted to the work tasks and the hazards of those tasks, and let’s not forget that whatever regulatory training we do, meets our company, OSHA or other international standards requirements as well. For me, effective training is one of the cornerstones of an all-around safety program.

Well, how do we do that? If you are asking yourself that question, then don’t feel alone, that happens a lot. It happens to the best of organizations, plant and project managers as well as the safety and training managers. So let’s get down into the weeds here just a little.

Where to start? That is always the first thing that pops into my head when I am asked to review a training program, a training team, a course or other safety training related issues. Most of the time, the first place I want to look is, what do the stats tell me? What are our accident trends? Are we having a spike in hand injuries or maybe a rise in crane / lifting and rigging accidents? How many employees have had the required safety trainings from the safety training matrix? Is there training on the training matrix that covers those trends? What about previous accidents, what can I learn about training related issues from them? What were any corrective actions concerning training from the last 4 or 5 accidents? Is there a trend there? Is our safety training addressing them?

Next I will want to work with the training team or the 3rd party training providers to see if their training packages are up-to-date with policy changes or other standards changes. Are our training packages, meeting adult learning principles? What are the learning outcomes and are we meeting them? How are we measuring that learning outcomes have been met? Next our trainers, are they “just training to be training” or, are they actively engaging their students? Are they actively applying adult learning strategies during their training sessions? Are we taking and applying feedback from our students to our training packages? Has the training team done any kind of TNA’s (Training Needs Analysis) for any current work or trends or for any future works?

Then the next question is are we keeping it “Kinesthetic”? Meaning, are we taking every chance we can, to make as much of our safety training hands-on? If not, then we have to determine how we can add practical training to as much of our safety training as we can. Example: If we have employees working at heights, then have a training scaffold built, so that employees can practice proper tie-off at heights, ladder safety on scaffolds, practical demonstrations of suspension trauma and rescue from heights. We can have employees demonstrate how to inspect, don and doff their safety harness and lanyards. If we step back and look at our training packages, we can come up with many types of hands-on trainings that will actually give employees the skills they need and that we can test/measure against.

Evaluation: Are we evaluating all stages of the training cycle? We must evaluate each training package to ensure that the training is meeting the needs of our employee’s safety skills. Are learning outcomes of each training package targeted to the employee safety skills needed and the needs of the organization? We must evaluate the training during and after the training. Has the trainer been evaluated by a guest shopper? That is someone who attends the training to observe if the trainer is following adult training techniques. Next we must ask students to give us proper feedback on the training. Is the training meeting their needs and expectations? Then we have to conduct post training follow up to see how employees are applying what they learned in their training. This can be done in several ways. We can conduct surveys of supervisors about employee performance prior to and following the training. We can ask employees what they learned and how they are applying the key elements of the training they received. We can conduct behavioral safety observations follow the training to see what behaviors have been affected.

Keeping employees safe on the job, involves many factors. Training is one of the key cornerstones of our safety programs. If we apply these proper learning and development fundamentals as we have covered here, we will be going a long way to ensuring that our safety training program is assisting our employees to work safer each and every day.

What will you now check about your safety training program and what actions will you take if you find something amiss?