Principles of Industrial Safety Training
Written by Jack Rubinger
As children, we absorb much of our training from our parents. Of all the messages we hear from the time we're little -- Be careful. Look both ways. Wear a hat. Hold mama's hand. Stay in the shallow end -- most of them are related to safety.
Without our parents looking over our shoulders reminding us to be careful, we're thrust into our new working environments with new rules.
The working world can be scary. And no family wants mom or dad to fear coming to work.
So we arrive at the need for workplace safety training. There are basic principles of workplace or industrial training. The purpose of this article is to share these basic principles.
Janet L. Keyes, CHESS, Inc. offers four guidelines for effective industrial safety training:
- Make the program fit your company
- Get top management’s support
- Plan to spend more time on implementation than on program development
- Communicate. Make sure those affected by the program know what they need to do
The best kind of industrial safety training is on the job training in an environment that approximates actual working conditions.
Unfortunately, awareness of safety does not come naturally. We all need to be trained to work safely. Effective training programs both teach and motivate employees to be a productive part of the safety culture.
While opinions vary, some of the top workplace injuries that might be prevented with proper training include motorized vehicle accidents, hazardous release of energy (lockout/tagout) and chemical exposure. These kinds of activities or incidents can be rehearsed, simulated or addressed through training and recognition of appropriate signs and labels.
Defining Training - Training means helping people to learn how to do something, telling people what they should or should not do, or simply giving them information. Training isn’t just about formal ‘classroom’ courses. Consider the importance of personal protection equipment (PPE), understanding arc flash dangers, pipe scheduling and 5S (a lean manufacturing philosophy that is closely linked to Kanban and Kaizen).
In some respects, training is about improving or honing what you already know. But long-term, training is about educating.
Effective training begins before you start on the job. Companies such as WorkSTEPS assess and train workers before getting hired to perform jobs safely by teaching them proper lifting techniques – critical to prevent back injuries which are so prevalent in the oil industry. This thinking represents a shift from injury reduction to risk reduction.
Know What You Don’t Know - A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is used to assess an organization’s training needs. The root of the TNA is the gap analysis. This is an assessment of the gap between the knowledge, skills and attitudes that the people in the organization currently possess and the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to meet the organization’s objectives.
The training needs assessment is best conducted up front, before training solutions are budgeted, designed and delivered. The output is a document that answers these questions:
- Why do people need the training?
- What skills need imparting?
- Who needs the training?
- When will they need the new skills?
- Where will the training be conducted?
- How will the new skills be delivered?
Safety Manuals - A proper safety training manual should include general safety issues such as using a ladder and the location of the closest emergency hospital. It should have both general office or workplace issues about how to safely use the coffee machine and industry specific information, so the sheet metal fabricator might need a section on blood-borne pathogens in case someone cut themselves on sharp edges. The safety manual should be provided to the new employee before starting work. Illustrate the safety manual with photographs of real working situations and the appropriate signage and message for each area of the company. Illustrations are great, too. The safety manual should be written so that everyone in the organization understands it. Include an emergency action plan created for crisis situations.
Understand How People Learn - Safety training is mostly about behavior and attitudes with adults.
So how do people learn?
- Spaced practice or repetition is generally more effective than a single practice or practicing the task several times.
- Transfer of learning from one context to another quickens the learning process.
- Fast feedback benefits learners
Revise, Relearn, Revisit, Refresh, Rehearse - Safety training programs should be updated constantly to keep material fresh. Many believe training sessions or workshops should be conducted early in the day before people are tired. For outdoor applications, lighting and weather are factors. Some recommend yearly updating of printed materials and tutorials. “People forget, bad habits creep in and things change over time. Safety training is a constant need,” explained Darius. To be able to cope with the new risks, lifelong learning is indispensable. Take a time out from the daily routine to conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills. Some companies conduct weekly toolbox talks, introduce monthly safety talks and provide an intranet to disseminate safety training tips to employees.
Include Everyone in the Training - To ensure company-wide training, offer both field-level and supervisor safety training programs. One important demographic are workers in the 40-60 year old age group. These aging baby boomers are a growing segment in our workplace. Lifting heavy boxes becomes more difficult with age. Companies should be aware and address in writing particular needs of individuals. Testing an employee’s fitness is an excellent way to address this. For example, if someone cannot easily lift 50 lbs. then he should be instructed not to lift over 50 lbs and sign off on this instruction. The Work Loss Data Institute, in its Official Disability Guidelines 2004, mined several national databases to demonstrate that older workers have longer periods of disability than their younger counterparts.
Young people (teens to 20s) are another key demographic. They might be more likely to daydream. They’ve got a lot on their plates, going to school, getting good grades, helping mom and dad around the house, their social lives.
Hispanics are an important audience for workplace safety training. “First generation Hispanics in the workplace are known for not raising issues or asking questions. Even when they don't fully understand the instructions given, they will often remain silent. Hispanic males in particular, will generally not attempt to ask their bosses for clarification. They prefer to learn through trial and error or by watching or asking one of their trusted team members. They justify this behavior in order because they fear they might appear "unintelligent" in front of their bosses or "weak" or "inexperienced" in front of their peers. It's important for team leaders to prepare for this response and to not overreact,” explained consultant Isaac Botbol.
The Bureau of Labor (BLS) has reported that the labor force participation rate for women has grown from 51.5 percent in 1980 to 60.2 percent in 200 and is projected to exceed 62 percent.
Women often face different workplace health challenges than men, partly because men and women tend to have different kinds of jobs. Because of this, men and women experience different job-related problems. In terms of health, women generally have more work-related cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, respiratory diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, and anxiety and stress disorders compared to men, reported the Center for Disease Control. Safety training for women should address these issues.
For all, focus is important at work, but so are breaks. Go for a walk. You can’t stare at your computer all day or you’ll go crazy. Part of safety training for all is about when to take breaks from work before fatigue sets in because people are more likely to get hurt when they’re tired.
Have All The Right Resources - Consultants, videotapes, online training. on-site training. off-site training. simulated accidents, web-based training, OSHA-specific training. All are helpful safety training tools.
Larger companies sponsor their own universities offering safety courses produced in-house, full-time education and training directors and formal training rooms. In smaller companies, the CEO can walk the floor and take the time to ask workers about their safety concerns.
Determine what mix of tools works best for your company, your industry and your company size and budget. It’s actually possible to make safety training fun and effective. Organize a safety hazard scavenger hunt or play a Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy inspired safety game. Games take the tension out of safety training. Several websites offer safety training cartoons and crossword puzzles. Hire a safety trainer with a sense of humor. Safety as a topic isn’t boring – but a boring trainer is boring no matter the subject. Safety is a cool topic that involves areas including human behavior, equipment and motivation.
Corporate Culture/Management/Profits - National Safety Council studies say for every $1 a company spends on safety, there is a return of $4-6 overall considering productivity, direct costs and indirect costs. Safety is good business. Reducing workplace injuries and illnesses reduces the costs of workers’ compensation, medical expenses, potential government fines, and the expenses of litigation. Effective workplace safety training is not an expense, it is an asset.
Take your safety training to the next level. Invite representatives from other companies to tour your facility and vice or versa to learn about each other’s safety training programs. Encourage corporate leaders to participate as board members of various manufacturing and safety organizations.