Workplace Safety

The Five P’s of Safety Training

For some training goals, such as refreshers after a near-miss incident or reminders of seasonal hazards, shorter may be better when it comes to your training sessions. Use the simple Five P Plan to quickly and effectively affect employee safety behavior.

Which do you suppose a worker will remember more clearly: the weeklong safety course he completed 6 months ago or the 15-minute safety chat the foreman gave at the beginning of the shift addressing the specific job tasks the worker would do that day?

It may be harder to budget for a 15-minute session at the start of every shift, and it may be more difficult to schedule around such a session on every shift than to send a whole work crew out for a week. But you might well find that it’s worth it—that because of their immediacy and relevance, toolbox or tailgate talks like these offer more bang for your safety training buck.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) encourages employers to use toolbox talks. In October 2011, the agency issued a revised and updated fact sheet for employers on setting up toolbox/tailgate safety meetings. It includes a checklist of suggested toolbox topics.

The Five P Plan

Having a limited amount of time in which to present training has its disadvantages—for example, trainers may not be able to cover a topic in depth. However, it has advantages, too. Knowing they have no time to waste, trainers will come right to the point. Workers will know they won’t be there all day, so they’ll be less likely to let their minds wander.

To make the most of the limited time available, trainers should keep in mind the five “P’s”:

1. Pinpoint: Don’t choose too broad a topic. The training should focus on one main practice or process, whether it’s a new regulatory requirement, a new piece of equipment, or a refresher point after a near-miss or actual accident.

2. Prepare: Because trainers won’t have time to track down information during the sessions, they need to have all materials handy that they will use. That might include the actual equipment that workers use, copies of machinery operating instructions, relevant safety standards, and safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals.

3. Personalize: Topics should be selected based on the employer’s own operations, worksite, and safety issues. Trainers can address problem areas and emphasize specific equipment or safe work practices.

4. Promote participation: Make sure trainees actively participate in the training session. Participants should have opportunities for hands-on experience—for example, fitting a guard onto a machine or replacing the cartridge on a respirator. They should also be permitted to ask questions during the session. Always leave time for this valuable participation by trainees.

5. Prescribe: Trainers should explicitly and precisely state what employees need to do to keep themselves and their coworkers safe.

Create a Safety Training Track Record

Although toolbox talks tend to be brief and informal, employers should treat them as part of their formal safety training program. Make sure trainees sign an attendance form and that you document the date, the topic, and what was covered. These records can be important when providing inspectors with evidence that required information was delivered to employees. They may also be useful to determine if an employee being transferred or promoted needs additional training.

If workers make valuable suggestions or comments during the session, document and follow up on them. You might want to include this feedback in future sessions.

By conducting regular toolbox talks, documenting them thoroughly, and using the information they provide to inform your ongoing safety program, you can get a lot of value for your safety training dollar.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll get another take on toolbox talks with a variation on the Five P Plan.