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The Importance of Training

Published: 01st May 2012

It is the responsibility of any company, no matter where they are located, to keep their employees safe and free from harm.

In a lot of countries, an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) act or regulation will define the roles and responsibilities of various workplace parties in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. If the workplace parties are not aware of, or do not understand these roles and responsibilities, the employees' ability to function safely is compromised and could lead to fatalities. In certain small workplaces that are without the most basic knowledge, employees are limited in their ability to identify and discuss hazards and the solutions necessary to mitigate the hazards.

Employees need to know how to work safely and without risks to health, and they must know about your health and safety policy; how you implement it and the part they have to play. All employees must be aware of their health and safety responsibilities towards not only themselves, but also towards other employees and people visiting the work premises.

The nature of your business and its activities might mean employees need training in specific areas. For example, staff might need to learn how to handle and dispose of cleaning chemicals, or how to operate a forklift truck safely. Employees may also need training to ensure that you comply with environmental regulations; for example, if they work with hazardous or controlled substances or gases.

Managers or supervisors will also require training in what they have to do to help you deliver your health and safety policy, and how best to manage the specific health and safety risks faced by your business. As an employer, you may need training to ensure you are up to date with your legal duties: you must know how to identify hazards and how to control the risks caused by your activities.

Training is likely to be particularly important in certain circumstances. For instance when:

• New people join your business, from employees to work placement students

• Employees change jobs within the business

• An existing risk increases, perhaps because of a greater volume of work

• A new risk is identified, such as when new equipment is purchased Remember that refresher training is usually performed annually, and it is of particular importance so as to avoid the creeping onset of complacency. Training must also be provided during work time and at your expense.

Also, any staff representatives are entitled to paid time off work for their training. One of the ways in which employers meet their legal obligation to impart health and safety information, and in doing so protect their workforce, is through training. A recent systematic review conducted by Robson et al for the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) concluded that workplace training and education have a positive impact on the health and safety practices of workers. There was, however, insufficient evidence that training on its own reduced injury rates.

These findings support the multifaceted approach set out in the recommendations of the panel; filling gaps in training requirements, promoting key elements of OHS performance such as management commitment, encouraging worker participation, influencing societal norms, and creating processes to identify and remove hazards. To make significant improvements to workplace health and safety, all of these elements are necessary. In the United States, employers must have an overall safety programme including relative site specific safety information where applicable. The safety training programme should cover topics such as:

• Accident prevention and safety promotion

• Safety compliance

• Accident and emergency response

• Personal protective equipment

• Safety practises

• Equipment and machinery

• Chemical and hazardous materials’ safety

• Workplace hazards

• Employee involvement Employers must document all training. Creating a training matrix will simplify keeping track of the training process: who has been trained, when they were trained, the training topic, and when it is time for refresher training. Employees must also sign an official sign-in sheet provided by the employer that can serve as proof that employees received proper training.

The sign-in sheet must have a broad description of what is being covered in the training. Tests or quizzes on the presented material can help gauge employee understanding of the material and highlight topics that need to be reviewed. The non English speaking population is consistently growing in many industries and in the Middle East there are many multilingual workforces, so it is important that employers provide bilingual training for those workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all employees be properly trained.

Developing an effective training programme

Most employees display attitudes of disinterest and dread at the thought of attending safety training, which can leave the trainer feeling frustrated and unappreciated. It is the trainer's duty to make safety training fun and educational, which will help the trainees to enjoy the course, retain the information, and most importantly to apply the learning to their work and lives.

To make this possible the training must be developed on a level that any employee can understand and retain its messages. An effective training programme can reduce the number of injuries and deaths, property damage, legal liability, illnesses, workers' compensation claims, and missed time from work.

A safety training programme can also help a trainer keep the required mandated safety training courses organised and up to date. Safety training classes help establish a safety culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new recruits be properly trained and fully embrace the importance of workplace safety, as it is easy for seasoned workers to negatively influence the new influx of staff. That negative influence can be purged with the establishment of new, hands-on and innovative, effective safety training, which will ultimately lead to an effective safety culture.

A 1998 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded that the role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention. It is important to understand that a determined resolve must be made to find out whether a situation can be solved using training. Training, or retraining as the case may be, could be required by a standard or regulation.

Broader implications and objectives

Training is an effective solution to problems such as employee lack of understanding, unfamiliarity with equipment, incorrect execution of a task, lack of attention, or lack of motivation. Sometimes the situation cannot be mitigated through the use of training and so other methods, such as the establishment of engineering controls, may be needed to ensure worker safety.

A job safety analysis and/or a job hazard analysis should be conducted with every employee, so that it is understood what is needed to do the job safely and what hazards are associated with the job. A safety trainer may observe the worker in their environment to adequately assess the worker's training needs. Certain employees may need extra training due to the hazards associated with their particular job. These employees should be trained, not only on how to perform their job safely, but also on how to operate within a hazardous environment. It is important for the trainer to establish goals and objectives and to identify necessary training material.

It is equally important that the trainer classifies training material that is not needed to avoid unnecessary training and frustration from its recipients. At the beginning of every safety training session the trainer should clearly outline the objectives for the class. The objectives should be delivered using action oriented words such as, ‘The employee will be able to demonstrate’, or, ‘Will know when to’, which will help the audience understand what they should know either by the end of the class, or what information to assimilate during the class. Clearly established objectives also help focus the evaluation process on those skill sets and knowledge requirements necessary to perform the job safely.

Training should be hands-on and simulate the job as closely as possible. Trainers can use instructional aids such as charts, manuals, PowerPoint presentations and films. Trainers can also include role playing, live demonstrations, and round table group discussions to stimulate employee participation. Using games that involve spotting problems in pictures can be a useful way to make the training fun, yet educational, and especially helpful when using pictures of situations found at their specific location.

Evaluation of training objectives

Trainers should provide employees with an overview of the material to be learned and relate the training to the employees' experiences. Employers should also reinforce what the employees have learned by summarising the programme's objectives and key points of training. At the beginning of the training programme, the trainer should show the employees why the material is important and relevant to their jobs. Employees are more likely to pay attention and apply what they've learned if they know the benefits of the training.

Evaluations will help employers or supervisors determine the amount of learning achieved and show whether or not an employee’s performance has improved on the job. Among the methods of evaluating training are:

• Student opinion: Questionnaires or informal discussions with employees can help employers determine the relevance and appropriateness of the training programme

• Supervisors’ observations: Supervisors are in a good position to observe an employee’s performance both before and after the training and note improvements or changes

• Workplace improvements: The ultimate success of a training programme may be changes throughout the workplace that result in reduced injury or accident rates

• Formal assessments: Practical and written exams also assist in evaluating understanding of training material. For example, for a lift-truck operator, a written and a practical exam would identify areas of training that may need to be revisited. Furthermore, administering a pre-test and post-test will establish a knowledge baseline or reference point to measure training effectiveness As evaluations are reviewed, it may become evident the training was not adequate and that the employees did not reach the expected level of knowledge and skill. As the programme is evaluated the trainer should ask:

• If a job analysis was conducted, was it accurate?

• Was any critical feature of the job overlooked?

• Were the important gaps in knowledge and skill included?

• Was material already known by the employees intentionally omitted?

• Were the instructional objectives presented clearly and concretely?

• Did the objectives state the level of acceptable performance that was expected of employees?

• Did the learning activity simulate the actual job?

• Was the learning activity appropriate for the kinds of knowledge and skills required on the job?

• When the training was presented, was the organisation of the material and its meaning made clear?

• Were the employees motivated to learn?

• Were the employees allowed to participate actively in the training process?

• Was the employer’s evaluation of the programme thorough? When talking about training, we have to consider the modality of training that will be most effective for the employees. Computers and videos can be a great addition to a company's safety training programme; however, as standalone resources they may not be adequate in meeting a company’s training requirements as they are not site specific. Computer based training, or e-training, can help meet the following training challenges:

• Training employees in remote locations

• Employees who are computer savvy

• Safety managers lack of time and resources to effectively train employees

• Providing a means of documenting and tracking student progress

• Lowering trainer fees or travel costs

• A self-paced, relaxed learning environment Due to the importance of safety and health training, the employer must track the success and progress of the trainer and the training. This will allow for any changes to the training that might be necessary. There is nothing more important than keeping the employees safe and healthy. No matter what the working environment, an employee is the most expensive and necessary asset for any company. Training is a very inexpensive way to maintain the workforce a company has hired and to maximise your best asset - your employees.

Published: 01st May 2012 in Health and Safety Middle East

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