Updated: Apr 10, 2022
Health and Safety Training Needs To Be Evaluated For Effectiveness
Training for OSHA covers a wide range of health and safety training topics. They can range from relatively simple things like walking and working surfaces to complicated topics like hazardous substance clean-up. You've taken the time to either develop good training content or hired a vendor (or similar) to provide you with the content. Heck, you may hire professional health and safety training providers to give the training in person or live virtually.
The thing is that no matter how good the training may seem, you don't really know if it worked as intended without performing behavior observations. Sure, there can be knowledge tests that employees can take, and they may do very well on them. But there is a difference in taken a test in a classroom and doing what you learned properly in the field. This is where behavior observations come into play. They fulfill three very important roles:
Behavior observations are an integral part of the on-the-job training component of the work.
They are used to document practical progress towards performing the work successfully.
This type of observation is still part of the overall training process. In training, while the answers shouldn't always be given, "hand holding" to help employees get where they need to be is still appropriate where needed.
Focused behavior observations are used to evaluate employee competency.
Nearly all forms of training want learners to do something, not just be more knowledgeable.
Because of the strong need for employees to do a task successfully on their own, this is not the place to hold their hands. Other than clarifying things, they need to perform the job tasks on their own during this type of observation.
That means no showing employees what to do or giving them the answers!
Ongoing behavior observations are used to check for compliance with the training and procedures.
Employees, and people in general, tend to do what it checked more than what you expect them to just do.
Compliance type observations are a snapshot to see if employees generally are doing what they were trained.
Pitfalls of Not Using Behavior Observations
The point of training someone is so that they can do the work related to the training material. But standing up in front of people talking or sitting at a computer can only accomplish so much. Yes, there can be a large amount of information that needs to be given to employees before they just go out and start doing. But any effective training strategy needs to include a field component. Heck, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) details a three pronged approach to training for Power Industrial Trucks.
So, if you don't use observations to see how an employee is performing the job, you won't know if there is something that needs correcting. This is important because if an employee does the job incorrectly, bypassing things they shouldn't, it can lead to serious injuries or property damage. It can start a chain reaction of bad things happening that could have been prevented by monitoring the employee and correcting behaviors as needed.
And that's assuming that you haven't cut the employee loose to work unsupervised. The problems can quickly escalate if you have an incompetent employee operating say heavy mobile equipment or trying to improperly inflate a multi-piece pneumatic tire.
Some may ask why would companies do something like that in the first place? Well, the pressure to produce and sell can be quite strong. Sometimes a company doesn't have the resources it needs to meet it's production and sales demands and be safe at the same time. Or at least that is what some may believe. They need bodies to get the work done. For those of you that believe safety is number one, I hate to break it to you but it's not.
A business exists to produce a product or service that it can sell at a net gain (profit). It's mission is typically the specific way it accomplishes making a profit via the product it sells. So it shouldn't be too surprising that things like safety are not the number one priority. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be a core part of how you do business. But, when a business is struggling to meet its demands, it can be hard to see the value of training and safety. Not tending to this, in short, will likely lead to increased costs in the following ways:
Increased labor hours to achieve the same production levels.
Potential for fines for more serious issues.
Decreased ability to produce due to damaged essential equipment.
A business simply cannot afford to not ensure its employees are properly trained. The long-term viability of the company can be what's at stake!