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The Levels of Health and Safety Training

Your Health and Safety Training Has Multiple Audiences

Let's use lockout tag out as an example health and safety training topic. You can generally break your audiences down to these: those that have a reasonable chance of encountering potentially dangerous equipment, those that authorize and perform lockout tag tag out, and those who perform some form of management duties. In the case of management duties, these can be things like writing procedures, ensuring adequate supplies for lockout tag out stations, and the like.

Just setting up the audiences can show where you need to focus your attention for the content of the materials. Cross training aside, does an employee need to know how to perform lockout tag out if they are not currently expected to do it? I'd say no. Not taking training they don't need keeps employee training requirements, and the time required to complete training, lower. If that changes at some time in the future, schedule them for the higher tier training they need before they will be expected to do the job.

Awareness Level Health and Safety Training

There can be varying levels of what comes to mind for awareness level training. I do want to note that I am not talking about awareness training specifically detailed in regulation. There are typically low level actions, such as initiating an emergency response sequence and notifications that are done under such specific training.

Awareness level training is needed for two general types of employees. The first are employees who may work in an area relating to a training topic, like confined spaces, but who won't be performing work related to it. The second are those who will be performing work in the training topic area, and this level of training serves as the introduction to it. In either case, the focus of training will be the following:

  1. The hazards present in the workplace

  2. Why the hazards are dangerous to workers

  3. How to identify those hazards

  4. Awareness of the requirement to report issues observed

  5. Staying away from the hazards and not performing work related to them without additional training and authorization

The nice thing about this level of training is that almost regardless of the topic (hot work, lockout tag out, confined space entry) the goals are the same. Since the goals are essentially the same, you can consolidate the training into an overall course likely shorter than what you are currently using for the individual topics. And it can still be just as effective. The longer part of the training will be going over the various topic types. They need to know how to recognize what they are likely to encounter, and there are many different kinds of potential hazards in the work place. The specifics will vary from company to company.

Performance Level Health and Safety Training

At this level is where you start needing to focus in on the individual topics. The requirements to performing safe and compliant confined space entry can vary markedly from those needed to operate a forklift. That said, the point of the training is the same. The worker who has to do the job must receive sufficient knowledge and skill to perform the job safely and compliantly.

Unlike with awareness level training, there is much more of a need to have a hands on portion to training. Additionally, the employee must be evaluated to ensure that they are actually capable of performing the work. You want competent workers doing the potentially dangerous work, don't you? In order to ensure effective training, the job task must be evaluated sufficiently such that proper equipment design and procedures are developed. Much of the hands on portion of training will be dealing with following procedures.

A big thing that needs to be ingrained in learners is that they need to stick to the script. The script, as I like to call it, represents company procedures, policies, programs, etc. The procedure calls for x, y, and z to be done? You do x, y, and z. But, what if you aren't working on z? If the applicable procedure still calls for you to do something to z? You still do it. That said, training and policy should encourage workers to speak up to management on potentially better, more efficient ways to do work. If they agree, the procedure (or script) can be changed to allow for more efficient and safe work.

When performing the competency evaluation, don't hold an employee's hand. If that's needed, do it in the classroom and hands on portion of the training. If you are going to expect the employee to be able to perform said work without direct (or any) supervision, well you need to see that they can do it unaided. Sure, clarify things if a learner is uncertain about what is being asked of them. But that should be about it. If they are unable to do the work adequately in the competency evaluation, then it likely means they aren't ready to do the work unsupervised.

Management Level Health and Safety Training

Contrary to the title name of this section, this level of training is not exclusive to management level employees. Rather, this is for those who have "management" responsibilities for the training topic. Remember that script I mentioned in the previous section? That is usually a procedure or some type of inspection form. Guess who has the primary responsibility of creating those things? People in this tier of training.

This level of training sets up all the things that the employees who perform the work need to do it safely and compliantly. This training will cover the requirements of regulations, programs, and or policies to ensure that they are taken care of in the field. This training should also impart the knowledge and skills needed to implement the program or procedure. I'll look at lock out tag out, again, as an example. I like lock out tag out as a topic. I've got history with it.

I want to note that this is a general example, and it is not intended to meet the specific requirements your operation or regulations may have. So, you are tasked with creating and/or updating your facility's lock out tag out procedures. You're starting with an industrial saw since employees have let you know that the old procedures don't work anymore. You haven't made procedures before... and you may be starting to panic a little. Well, don't do this process alone. Have the saw operator, and maintenance if available, be present as you go through the process to figure out how to make the procedure.

Lock Out Tag Out Procedure Creation Process

  1. Start with the equipment you want to lock out. In this case, it's an industrial saw.

  2. Ask what controls it:

  3. You are shown the controls.

  4. You ask the operator to show that the controls operate the saw.

  5. The controls are shown to operate the saw.

  6. You note that when the saw motor is turned off when it was allowed to run, it keeps spinning for a while. You will need to address this in the procedure.

  7. Ask what the power sources are.

  8. Maintenance and the operator tell you that the saw spins by an electric motor and it is moved on a hydraulic arm.

  9. You ask to see where the power source controls are.

  10. You are taken to an electrical control room and the electrical disconnects to the saw motor and hydraulics are identified.

  11. You go back to saw controls and have the operator move the saw blade and the saw arm. Then, you have the operator turn them off.

  12. You call to maintenance to turn off the saw motor and saw hydraulics disconnects.

  13. I'd recommend you see this done, yourself.

  14. With the disconnects in the off position, you have the operator attempt to start the saw blade or move the saw arm.

  15. The saw blade does not turn, but you notice the the saw arm falls slowly.

  16. You note that you need to address releasing residual hydraulic pressure from the saw arm.

  17. You make sure to get pictures of the following:

  18. The equipment (saw, arm, hydraulic pump)

  19. The controls

  20. The electrical disconnects

All of the above links the equipment, the controls, and the energy sources such that you are able to successfully bring it to a zero-energy state. Note how the example was done in the field. Bringing equipment to a zero-energy state is the point for the performance level training relating to lock out tag out. If the equipment can't be brought to this state, you generally cannot work on it.

The management level of training is essential in making sure the work can be done safely and efficiently. Otherwise, if the performance level employees are doing their jobs, they won't be performing the work if they don't have what they need to do it. Note that I set up the example of procedure creation as a field activity. This is how I learned, and this is usually how I train others. You often can't adequately replicate making an accurate and effective procedure solely by sitting in the office and typing.

Who Gets What Training?

At the end of the day, this is up to your company. But if you want to get the most bang for your buck in terms of training, time commitment, and results, you need to be honest with yourself. Sure, it sounds great to some to train everyone on everything. You never know who might be needed to do something, right? But then there's the reality that most of your workers aren't going to write procedures or directly implement programs. That doesn't mean they won't be involved in some way. But it won't generally be their responsibility.

Taking an honest look at who does what, and who is likely to do something in the near future, helps you decide who to assign your training to. And just because you decided something today doesn't mean you have to stick to that decision. A future review may show that some of your employees are actually more involved with a topic than you first thought. That may mean that it makes sense to better train them to participate in that role. It can be hard to take an objective look at how your company does things. But that look can safe you time, money, and effort. What's that worth to you? Maybe it's time to find out!

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