In recent times training has become an essential activity which can affect the competitive edge of an organisation and its effectiveness in getting things done. Most businesses appreciate that the more their people can do, the more they can achieve. To many, training is concerned with learning at the desk or going on courses or seminars.
The purpose of training
In many ways the concept of safety training is a myth. Certainly the notion of ‘bolt-on’ training to accompany job training is at best misguided. Training which teaches employees how to perform tasks correctly should also teach them how to perform those tasks safely. The old adage “the right way to do the job is the safe way to do the job” still holds true. Therefore the safety practitioner and the training manager should ensure that safety is built into the training package at the identification of training needs stage. In this way, safety is integrated into the quality and efficiency programme and not left outside it, where money is not available during lean years and time is not available during boom years.
There are of course times when safety training has to stand alone. During induction training, for example, when new employees should be told of specific safety procedures in the organisation: fire procedures or first aid arrangements, for example. But in general, the more safety training can be integrated into skills training the better.
The aim of training is to secure a positive change in the behaviour and attitudes of personnel. Therefore it is essential to identify the changes in behavior required before training commences, and to set outcomes which can be demonstrated after the training has been received. This approach allows the success of the training to be measured and for evaluation and feedback on success to be provided.
It should always be remembered that learning involves a process within the individual which results in a capacity for changed performance related to experience.
Training is perhaps one of the key weapons in Health and Safety Management as it can be used to motivate and change the behaviour of the people involved in workplace activities. Its success depends on identifying training needs, and providing and evaluating training aimed at satisfying those needs.
Basically, training programmes should be implemented under a manpower plan which has identified needs, both present and future, on the demand side and matched them to manpower resources on the supply side. The result of the match is identification of the training gap which has to be bridged through a mixture of training existing staff, and recruitment of new staff with the necessary skills.
From a health and safety viewpoint the primary purpose of training is to eliminate or reduce human failings which result in accidental behaviour.
Advantages of training
Most managers view training as desirable since it increases productivity and reduces learning time. In addition, it improves quality and raises standards, including health and safety.
Additional reasons for training are:
• To enable new recruits to become competent and confident workers
• To achieve this with the least waste of time and resources
• To facilitate their integration into the social working group
• To assist workers who have to change their jobs within the company
There are a number of major benefits to be gained from the introduction of a suitably designed scheme of organised learning which embodies a combination of sound basic training and planned practical experience. The benefits include:
• Recruitment of school leavers is improved; transition from school or previous company to the new environment is made less unsettling and the element of personal challenge in a carefully graded training course induces employees to try to match their talents to the demands of the job.
• The best use is made of an employee’s time with the company during the training period; training time is shortened and wastage of both employees and material is reduced
• The quick, correct and safe method of doing the task is learned from the beginning and, as there is less risk of passing on bad and unsafe practices, machinery and equipment is used more effectively
• If training is good there is less likelihood of a falling off of performance after transfer to the appropriate activity department and employees will more quickly reach and retain high standards of performance, both quantitatively and qualitatively
• When properly trained, employees tend to stay longer with their employer and, as they are inclined to identify themselves more fully with the company’s interests, labour relations and labour turnover figures improve
• Further training in stages builds up versatility, ability to accept an increasing degree of responsibility, and capacity to progress beyond the basic level
• A solid foundation is laid for retraining; this is increasingly important as technology changes faster, requiring the retraining of employees in the new skills required
Safety training is of vital importance both to the company and employees, particularly newcomers.
A newcomer could be run down by a fork-lift truck on the first day, or a fire could break out soon after his arrival, so safety, accident prevention and fire prevention should begin on the first morning, with the immediate dangers of the working environment and procedures to be followed in case of fire or accident.Later sessions should progress to the joint responsibilities of management and employees for safe working practices and give more detailed attention to the causes and prevention of, say, fire.
Special attention should be given to the safety training needs of young people.
Young persons under the age of 18 are particularly vulnerable to accidents and should be taught to act safely and obey safety rules from the very first day they join the company.
All machinery which is dangerous is required to be effectively guarded, but because of the vulnerability of young people, additional obligations exist in the cases of certain machinery which experience has shown to be particularly hazardous, and which has been specified by a statutory regulation to be dangerous. Young people must be under the adequate supervision of someone experienced who has a thorough knowledge of the machine and must be fully instructed as to the dangers of the machine and the precautions that should be taken.
You should also pay attention to potentially hazardous situations which exist in offices, laboratories and other non-production areas, including even toilets.
Training in correct attitudes is as necessary in these locations as in areas with production machines.
Training principles – the training cycle
Often training needs, or changes in behaviour, stem directly from the way in which an employee carries out a certain task. Job analysis and job safety analysis may indicate areas of work where performance could be improved through additional training.
Performance appraisal interviews are another means through which training needs can be identified. In many cases, the initiative will come from the employee and training will be requested to improve performance, reward and job satisfaction.
Training needs can also be identified as part of a manpower planning exercise in which present and future trends, including safety needs, are matched against present resources and a ‘training gap’ is identified. A manpower planning exercise should be ongoing and should take account of internal and external changes; for example, the introduction of cultural changes within an organisation, which may include the development of a safety culture, or the adoption of a quality assurance approach based upon BS 5750 or ISO 9000 or similar.
Future training needs will follow a flatter hierarchical structure, which results from the loss of middle managers and supervisors; consequently employees need to learn to solve their own problems. If those problems include health, safety or environmental control, then training in minimum requirements and good practice become essential. Again, the manpower plan approach has identified a training gap which will have to be filled through a training programme. Changes in the legislative environment in which the organisation operates, for example through the implementation of European Directives into Member State law, will also be reflected in an organisation’s training needs. Therefore both internal and external factors can lead to training needs.
Careful analysis of the needs on which training should be based is the foundation of effective training. If training provisions are not based on an analysis of needs, or the analysis is inaccurate, then the chances of training being effective are substantially reduced. The most important aspects of training needs analysis are as follows. 1. Training gap
The training gap is the difference between the standards which management wishes to achieve and the standards which are being achieved. A training need is the amount of training which would bring trainees to an expected standard. 2. Identifying training needs – what, why and how
Are you charged with the task of having your employees trained but don’t know where to start? Consider performing a training needs assessment first. You’ll optimise the benefit to your employees while saving on the bottom line. 3. What is a training needs assessment?
A tool utilised to identify what educational courses or activities should be provided to employees to improve their work productivity. Focus should be placed on needs as opposed to desires.
For example, training money would be better spent on a new employee in the accounting department who needs to learn Microsoft Excel for their job duties as opposed to learning Microsoft Publisher, which the employee wants but does not need. 4. Why conduct a training needs assessment?
To pinpoint if training will make a difference in productivity and the bottom line.
To decide what specific training each employee needs and what will improve their job performance. To differentiate between the need for training and organisational issues. 5. How is a training needs assessment performed?
There are several techniques that can be utilised individually or in combination with each other. More than one tool should be considered to get a better view of the big picture; however, which tools are used should be left up to the company.
A needs assessment is a systematic exploration of the way things are and the way they should be. These ‘things’ are usually associated with organisational and/or individual performance.
Training course design
Most industrial and commercial training is systematic. It can take place either on or off the job, or involve a combination of both approaches. Taking industry and commerce overall, in terms of all employees at all levels, most training takes place on the job.
People may learn basic skills away from the job and they may learn how to combine skills, but if the organisation believes in the value of training for any reason, training will be seen as an ‘ongoing thing’, not as something which happens casually, but as a procedure which is carefully planned by monitoring the performance of personnel.
Accidental on the job
Unplanned, casual, on the job training used to be the most usual method of training people. Employees found out as they went along; they were put on a job, possibly with someone who had done it before and they learned by observation (what was said was not always the best or safest way) and by trial and error. (“Sitting next to Nellie” is the term used for this type of training).
Incidental on the job training
In this instance the individual may receive training or not, depending upon such factors as the training policy of each individual supervisor, the priority of the work and the necessity to get a specific order out quickly.
Accidental off the job training
When we are going about our daily work we cannot help seeing other people going about theirs. We are subjected to what might be known as unwitting or subliminal learning; the way somebody else handles his knife and fork or sucks his thumb or licks his fingers before he counts some papers. All such experiences add up in our memories and we are reminded of them when we are called upon to do a similar task or one which consists of a series of recognisably similar skills.
We also experience ‘reverse learning’ in a similar way. We see a person performing a movement which we consider ugly or wasteful; we unwittingly determine not to include that motion in any of our own.
Incidental off the job training
How many times have you gone away on an external course or seminar and returned with the opinion that, although you have not learned anything new about the act, you have acquired some invaluable information on some new safeguards which otherwise you might not have come across?
On the job training
1. Advantages • It is more realistic; there is no gulf between theory and practice • It takes place in the office, using real equipment such as computers • The pressures under which the trainee must work are real – the consequences of errors are also very real These advantages are considerable and, but for certain serious limitations, they would be so overwhelming that no provision for off the job training would be necessary. 2. Limitations • The consequences of errors made in training can be very serious: it is all very well arguing that learning from mistakes is a ‘useful experience’, but mistakes may be very costly in terms of financial loss or, if there is a safety hazard, in terms of serious accidents • Learning on the job can be very time consuming if the trainee constantly needs to refer for guidance to experienced staff or operating manuals
Off the job training
• The trainee is free from distractions and interruptions
• Mistakes can be analysed as they occur, without the adverse consequences of mistakes made in carrying out real tasks • Advantage can be taken of many techniques designed to improve learning 2. Limitations
• It can become too remote from the particular needs of individuals
• There are limitations in the extent to which exercises carried out away from the workplace can be a precise simulation of the work to be done.
Off the job training is needed in order to complement on the job training. It has the following advantages: according to the balance between learning on the job and off the job, decisions relating to the choice of training methods must be made. These methods will be described more fully in the next section.
• Short courses
These can be either internal or external, frequently of a specialised nature and up to one week’s duration
• College courses
Attendance on these courses may be arranged in several ways: (i) Day release – Normally this is one day per week over one or more academic sessions (ii) Evening – The opportunity to be released during working hours to attend college is denied to many staff, who can attend only in the evenings (iii) Day/evening – A compromise option offered by some colleges is to arrange classes on an afternoon plus evening basis, which reduces the time required for students to be absent from work (iv) Block release – A further alternative is to arrange for attendance in blocks of weeks, rather than on a day or half day basis. Some employers are more amenable to releasing staff on this basis, rather than on day release over a longer period
• Distance Learning
The opportunity to attend classes of any sort is denied entirely to many potential students, for a variety of reasons: relevant courses may not be offered by local colleges; it may be impossible to arrange any form of release from work; travelling difficulties may be a problem if the student lives in a rural area.
Correspondence courses, offered on a distance learning basis, have been designed to meet the needs of such students, by providing written material and postal tuition as an alternative to attending classes.
• Open Learning
Some larger companies provide an in-house open learning centre, usually run by training specialists. Such a centre will usually be equipped with distance learning and multimedia courses, available in print or via a computer. The materials may be selected to meet specific training needs or may be available to staff as part of their own personal development. Often, the trainee will ‘contract’ with the open learning manager to put in an agreed number of hours of study in his or her own time, as well as during work time. Alternatively, open learning materials may be purchased for study at home or as part of a group scheme.
The choice of various methods of training is another feature of training course design. Some skill is required in identifying which method, or combination of methods, is suited to a particular situation. Again, there is a distinction between on the job methods and off the job methods
This is a relatively new concept and offers students a flexible and relatively ‘paper free’ way to study. It allows students to receive and transmit information quickly using email and websites, and to have access to other students via forums where ideas and information can be shared. This reduces the feeling of isolation when studying from home, or where the individual is the only person studying a particular topic or course
On the job methods
Learning on the job provides trainees with experience which is a combination of work-based knowledge and the development of skills. As the trainee gains experience, the range and complexity of tasks which he or she can undertake without detailed guidance increases. This process of learning can be improved by several means:
A preliminary to much learning by experience is for an experienced instructor to demonstrate to trainees how to carry out a particular task. Demonstration is an essential preliminary to operating most machines and equipment
A trainee’s understanding and speed of learning can be substantially improved with effective coaching by an experienced instructor. ‘Coaching’ is a term used to define the process by which a trainee learns by carrying out tasks under guidance from an experienced person. The instructor gives guidance and feedback to the trainee, and provides encouragement and assistance in overcoming difficulties
A great deal of coaching is provided on the job and, as such, is hard to distinguish from routine supervision. An ability to coach subordinates is a basic supervisory skill, and staff who have supervisory responsibilities have a training need to acquire coaching skills
Assigning to trainees the task of investigating a problem and analysing potential solutions to that problem is a popular method of learning in the office. A lot of knowledge of work practices and procedures can be gained; analytical and problem-solving skills can be developed and, in some cases the opportunity to apply knowledge gained at college is available.
Evaluation of training
The final stage in the training cycle is concerned with a review of the training, for the purpose of assessing whether it has met the objectives. There are various methods available depending on the objectives and the type of training which has taken place.
• Examinations and formal assessment
This is a good way of assessing a student’s understanding; however, the problem is that it might show up failure. Nerves often play a big factor in someone’s ability to perform under pressure and the most dedicated student who sails through general course work can fall to pieces at the exam stage.
As human beings we all have limitations and often if we are to learn facts, we need certain basic knowledge to build on. Age is a factor – it is easier to memorise when you are young
The use of a short pre-test and a final test, even when the results are not communicated to the trainees, will give a good guide as to how effective the instruction has been
• Asking the trainees
At the end of a training course it is common practice to ask for feedback in the form of a simple tick list to a variety of questions, from the quality of the training, including visual aids, to the accommodation and refreshments. Some forms will give you space to put your additional comments for those who care to take the time to do so
One of the problems with this type of assessment is that quite often students are keen to get out of the classroom door and do not pay proper attention to the questions, and give them the time they deserve
When students do bother to add their own comments, the answers given often convey some element of personal preference, and even those who are very satisfied with a course may feel that they have to find some fault. Consider carefully how you will handle such comments
• Performance appraisals
Some initial appraisal will help identify a training need. After attending a training course, a review of the training undertaken should be planned and carried out to see if the training meets the identified needs. If not, then appropriate action should be taken
• Continuous assessment
This is usually only possible during extended training. It is, however, a very useful tool. It is better to be able to establish that you are making progress as you go along, identify any problems which may occur and deal with them early on
Andrew Taylor is currently a Chartered Safety Practitioner working with SHEilds Ltd as a tutor on the NEBOSH Diploma in Environmental Management. He has extensive experience in Health, Safety and Environmental Management, most recently in consultancy and construction. The NEBOSH Diploma in Environmental Management is delivered via e-learning and is accessible worldwide. +44 (0)1482 806805 www.sheilds.org
Published: 10th Nov 2011 in Health and Safety Middle East