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Focus Your Safety Training Dollars Wisely

by Jason Townsell

As a former occupational safety training vendor, I have observed the disinterested and confused faces of students who probably should not have been in attendance. For example, I have been hired to provide excavation awareness training to a receptionist, fall protection training to an accountant and confined space awareness training to a group of cost analysts. None of these employees needed the training – not for their job duties, and not to meet regulatory requirements, either.

Obviously, these students did not request to attend the training, but rather were mandated to as part of the company’s misguided departmental safety training program. Some companies, for example, require employees to attend certain types of training based upon their department code rather than based on a specific job need. But requiring organization- or department-wide training based on the needs of only a few wastes resources and is counterproductive to both the safety training campaign and employee morale. Furthermore, employees forced to attend irrelevant training may begin to consider critical safety processes a waste of time, which subsequently detracts from the organization’s overall safety culture.

By assessing and analyzing employee training needs, you can decide on a focused direction for your safety training investments. This, in turn, will strengthen the impact of your company’s occupational safety training program.

Determining Training Needs

Safety training should be specific, relevant and concise – goals best accomplished through the exclusive prescription of applicable and jurisdictionally mandated subject matter. Determining an employee’s training needs can be accomplished in several ways:

Through a hazard analysis – The use of a preliminary hazard analysis allows for an employee’s job duties to be broken down and analyzed for hazards. Upon the determination of the applicable hazards, appropriate safety training (among other proactive measures) can be prescribed. A few of the other common hazard analysis methods that can be beneficial to determining employee training needs include: the Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), the Job/Task Hazard Analysis (JHA/THA) and the Hazard and Operability Study (HAZOP).

Through a Training Needs Assessment questionnaire – Another common method of determining employee training needs is through a comprehensive Training Needs Assessment questionnaire. Historically, this type of questionnaire has been completed in a paper format, but Web-based or electronic formats are user-friendly, precise and allow regulatory and client-specific needs to be uploaded into the system. Consistently updating this information helps organizations remain on the cutting edge in their client service and government compliance.

Through other methods – Training needs can also be determined through employee interviews, job observation (which is also a component of a job/task hazard analysis), focus groups and analyzing accident and near miss data and statistics.

Regardless of the method you use to determine your employee training needs, conducting a training needs assessment as part of your company’s overall environmental health and safety training program is critical to the program’s success.

So don’t waste your employees’ time – make sure the right people are getting the right training.

EHS Today guest blogger Jason Townsell, CSP, was named the 2010 Future Leader in EHS. He works for AECOM as a program safety manager at San Diego International Airport.

Source: EHS Today


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