If you're part of an organization that truly prioritizes safety, it has likely developed an array of health and safety-related policies, programs, and procedures - and that's commendable. Dare I say it's required by regulation too in many if not most cases.
However, upon closer scrutiny, you may discover a significant flaw. These documents are often filled with countless requirements, scopes, where they are applicable, and the like.
Unfortunately, they frequently overlook one critical aspect - how to fulfill these requirements. This oversight poses a serious challenge for the organization. Without clear, actionable steps, there's no guarantee that these safety rules will be implemented effectively or adhered to consistently, compromising the overall safety culture within the company.
In this post, we will delve into the prime qualities that effective safety training should possess to meet the requirements of various safety rules. Moreover, we will also discuss tailoring the training to suit the learners' needs. And, here's why.
It's a rare occurrence - excluding specific regulatory requirements - that every employee, across all hierarchical levels, needs to have an identical understanding of every facet of a safety policy or program. It is therefore crucial to structure safety training in a way that serves the needs of different employees, based on their roles, responsibilities, and risk exposure.
Safety Training is Generally Not a Part of Safety Rules
Have you ever found the time to thoroughly review your safety management system, or peruse your list of policies and programs? Don't worry if you haven't, but the next time you do, pay close attention to the details.
I mentioned earlier that safety training isn't typically integrated into safety rules. I'm referring not to a specific section in a policy or program that outlines training requirements, but to the stark reality that many safety rules provide a document scope, applicability, and overall requirements for the work or topic it pertains to - but fail to clarify how to practically accomplish these mandates.
This omission forms the crux of the issue. It's not inherently an error, but it's an aspect that demands due consideration to ensure the effective implementation of safety rules.
Consider safety rules as the rules of a game or sport. Merely knowing the rules doesn't automatically make you a better player. For instance, having an in-depth understanding of every intricate detail of football doesn't guarantee success as a quarterback.
Similarly, being familiar with all safety policies doesn't ensure safety in every work action. There are strategies and nuances to a game that are learned through time and experience – they aren't typically included in the rulebook. The same applies to safety rules.
Understanding the policy is the first step, but effectively applying those rules in practical scenarios is a different aspect altogether. This gap between knowledge and application is where safety training comes into play. It's not a flaw in the rules themselves, but rather an opportunity for growth and development in our approach to workplace safety.
Safety Training is Similar to Work Procedures
In many ways, safety training and safe work procedures are two sides of the same coin. Both aim to equip the workforce with the knowledge and skills needed to perform tasks successfully and, importantly, safely.
Let's take a look at the lock-out tag-out procedure, for instance. This procedure provides crucial information about a machine that allows workers to safely bring it to a zero-energy state. Exceptionally drafted procedures outline the necessary steps in the correct sequence, enabling even a novice to pick it up and successfully de-energize the machine, provided they have essential tools like lockout devices and locks.
Isn't it amazing how a well-crafted procedure can empower a worker with little to no experience to safely handle complex tasks? This isn't to say that a novice doesn't need training, as it is certainly required. But a well-written, accurate procedure can generally be picked up and followed to success.
Just like a well-executed dance routine, safety training aims to equip employees with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to effectively perform their tasks. But what sets safety training apart from a procedure? It's the depth of information and the ability to weave in best practices, aiming for an enriching learning experience rather than just a rote set of steps.
Let's consider our novice again. They might ace the procedure on paper, but how long would it take them to physically complete the tasks if they had to do it in the field? It's like being handed a treasure map with no clue about the terrain. Navigating unfamiliar territory takes time and may feel overwhelming.
The novice might not know the quickest routes or the right tools to use. Furthermore, some procedures, like confined space entry, require teamwork and leadership.
A novice might be unsure about their role, slowing the process and potentially compromising safety. A well-structured safety training program, on the other hand, fills these gaps, nurturing both competence and confidence.
Examples are Good
Let's paint a picture together. Imagine a bustling facility where a confined space entry procedure needs to take place due to an unexpected mishap of spilled materials inside a permit-required confined space.
The safety coordinator is immediately called into action. Unsurprisingly, management decides to bring in the maintenance staff and equipment operators to lend a hand - after all, many hands make light work, right?
With a task list longer than a Monday morning, the safety coordinator takes on the role of both the confined space entry permit authorizer and the entry supervisor.
Armed with an array of tools including a blank permit, an air monitor, non-entry rescue equipment and a set of procedures for the equipment, the coordinator begins the task at hand. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and the maintenance and equipment operator staff are left twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the coordinator who is busy gathering everything necessary.
Picture this: it takes the safety coordinator a full ten minutes just to assemble all the necessary items and make it to the site of the equipment. From there, the coordinator then has to lead the execution of the confined space entry procedure which, let's not forget, includes the lock-out tag out of the equipment. A procedure which, so far, hadn't even been started.
And, of course, we can't forget the all-important personal protective equipment (PPE). The coordinator must also scramble to gather the special confined space entry PPE required, including chemical-resistant coveralls, gloves, and goggles.
How Good Safety Training Shines
If you're reading the above scenario and think it sounds like an enormous amount of work to be resting on one person's shoulders, you'd be absolutely right. Yet, some businesses are (or at least have in the past) operating right now that manage these processes in this way or very similarly. And if this scenario sounds similar to a novice managing a complex process, well, that's because it is.
There's a common misconception floating around that if a task is related to safety, or environmental, health, and safety at large, it's a job solely for someone in that role. This perception couldn't be further from the truth. You see, a well-crafted safety training program integrates work tasks in ways that align seamlessly with production needs and timelines.
Sure, in the scenario we discussed earlier, there were safety-related aspects. But that doesn't mean the safety coordinator, manager, or someone in a similar role must bear the entire responsibility. Let's revisit the confined space entry scenario.
Picture this: the safety coordinator is informed about the task at hand in more detail, understanding who will be needed to do what to get the job done correctly. Meanwhile, equipment operators or maintenance staff could initiate the lock-out tag-out process, while the coordinator gathers the necessary paperwork and testing instruments.
And the entry PPE? It doesn't have to be nestled in the safety coordinator's desk drawer. It could be stored near the equipment, along with the non-entry rescue equipment. Prepping for entering the confined space post lock-out tag-out? That could be done too.
So, a considerable amount of productive work can be accomplished even before the safety coordinator steps onto the scene. Less juggling for the coordinator means they can arrive on-site sooner, without compromising safety protocols.
You might be wondering: what does this have to do with safety training? Well, effective safety training isn't just about theoretical concepts. It's about providing real-world examples and imparting essential knowledge and skills to enable teams to operate efficiently, effectively, and most importantly, safely.
Safety training should reflect the type of tasks encountered in the workplace because, at their core, these tasks are operational, not just about safety. Plus, a good safety training program can help workers avoid time-wasting pitfalls and prevent injuries or property damage.
Think of safety training as the wise, older sibling of a good work procedure. It’s the one that has seen it all, knows the ropes, and has a bunch of practical advice to give. You can even integrate procedures into the safety training content.
So before you place all the safety responsibilities on one person's shoulders, remember this: safety is a team effort. And with the right training, everyone can play their part effectively.
In the world of workplace safety, it's not just about knowing the rules, it's about understanding how to put them into practice effectively. Often, safety policies and procedures, while well-intentioned, fail to provide the necessary guidance on how to achieve their requirements in the practical, day-to-day operations of the job. This is where safety training takes center stage.
Safety training doesn't just provide information; it elucidates the best ways to meet the demands of a program or policy. It's the bridge between theoretical knowledge and practical application, and it's critical in fostering team collaboration on significant tasks.
Remember, while everyone has a role to play in ensuring safety, it takes effective training and strong leadership to transform a group of individuals into a cohesive, efficient, and safety-conscious team.
Tailoring training to address the real-world scenarios that a workplace faces is paramount. After all, when safety protocols are invoked, it's often due to an operational mishap.
Training helps to mitigate these issues, ensuring everyone knows their role in maintaining safety and operational efficiency.
So, before you let your safety officer bear the brunt of responsibility, remember this: restoring production to its regular schedule isn't a one-person job. With the right training, everyone can contribute effectively. Don't just comply with safety rules — make them work for you.