Workplace Safety

Training the Trainer: Workplace Safety

Safety trainers must be experts in their subject areas, but they also must be adept at teaching those subjects. Transferring expertise to trainees is both a skill and an art—here are some tips on effective safety training.

These tips were reported on in our sister publication the OSHA Compliance Advisor (OCA).

First, Preparation

In training, as in so many other pursuits, “the speed of the leader is the speed of the team.” That means trainers have to get up to speed on both their subject and the act of training itself before they can expect others to follow. OCA editors suggests this sequence:

Ascertain training needs. You don’t want to waste the limited time that the production office allows you for training, so make sure it’s what your trainees need to learn. There are several clues to this:

  • Job descriptions. These should tell what trainees do and what they’re supposed to know.
  • OSHA requirements: Obviously, if Uncle Sam says you need to train on something, you need to train on it. But don’t forget state training requirements, which are often more stringent than the federal training requirements.
  • OSHA 300 Log information. If your workers have been injured or made ill, something’s not being done right. Accident and near miss reports are another source of trouble information.
  • Changes. If management changes processes, equipment, or materials, there’s usually going to be a learning curve to safely deal with what’s new.

Target employees who need training. Again, OSHA and other regulations will dictate which employee groups need your attention, but so will these other measures:

  • Employee records. It shouldn’t be difficult to find out who’s been in an accident or was “written up” for a safety violation. These folks obviously need your attention.
  • Training records. Your program should be tracking who’s been trained, in what, and when. These records will then also tell you who needs refresher training.
  • Productivity and performance data. Has any particular group fallen behind in its efforts? It could be that they’ve also sloughed off on their safety procedures. The same goes for a sudden increase in productivity. Does this mean any safety shortcuts are being taken?

The editors of OCA say, “One of the best sources of information about who needs training might be right before your eyes. Simply observe whether workers are using proper safety precautions, wearing PPE, obeying signs, and so forth. And talk to workers, too.” The editors add, “Find out where they feel unsure about hazards, precautions, or safety rules.”

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll cover four elements that make training acceptable and retainable.