What if my Employees ‘Flunk’ a Training Quiz?

Just because you train your employees, it doesn’t mean that they will “get it,” at least not right away. Today our Safety Training Tips editor talks about what to do if an employee fails important safety-training testing.

Failure is not an option. When you’re dealing with safety and health training, lives could depend on all employees learning what they need to know in training sessions. Furthermore, in some cases, regulations require you to certify that workers have successfully completed an OSHA-mandated training course. So, failure is simply not an option.

You can’t just ignore the employee who flunks the training quiz. One way or another, you have to make sure that each trainee passes whatever form of safety training evaluation you use and then proceeds to put into practice the skills or knowledge taught in the training session.

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Let employees know you mean business. Make it crystal clear that the trainees will be tested—and that the test will count. One reason a trainee might flunk a quiz or other evaluation is that the workers simply didn’t take the training seriously enough. If an employee doesn’t pay attention during a training session or thinks it doesn’t matter, there’s a good possibility he or she won’t have the knowledge required to pass a test at the end of the session.

Make sure employees know that you take safety training very seriously. Explain that anyone who does not pass a training evaluation will be required to repeat the training. Let trainees know that failure to pass a training test the second time around could have a serious impact on their employment. For example, in cases where certification is required and you can’t certify that an employee has successfully completed the training and is competent to perform a particular duty, the employee could lose his or her job or face transfer to another position.

Look for a reason for failure before you retrain. When employees fail a training evaluation, you need to retrain them right away. Don’t wait. What they don’t know could cause an accident. But before you retrain, check to make sure there are no learning impediments. For example, perhaps the employee didn’t understand some of the information but was reluctant to ask questions. Maybe the employee didn’t understand because English is a second language. Or perhaps the employee is a visual or hands-on learner who just didn’t respond well to a lecture.

If you suspect the training method might have had something to do with the failure, try a different approach. Perhaps setting the employee up with a self-paced program that will allow the employee to work through the material more slowly and go back and review as often as necessary, will make a difference.

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If language is the issue, perhaps training materials translated into the employee’s first language or the assistance of a translator will allow the employee to pass the test. Or perhaps a more hands-on or visual approach to training will do the trick.

Reevaluate and keep an eye on the situation. After retraining employees who flunk the test first time around, you need to reevaluate their learning with another test. Even if they pass this test, you might want to follow up to make sure that they really have learned—and are using—the information provided in the training session. Those who pass the test the second time around, but just barely, definitely need some extra coaching, and their performance should be monitored for a while, just to make sure they’re working safely and are demonstrating an acceptable level of competence and understanding.

Why It Matters…

•   Successful training is critical to employee safety and health on the job.   
•   Lack of skills or knowledge could lead to accidents and injuries.
•   Training quizzes, proficiency tests, demonstrations of skill, and other evaluations are an essential part of the training process.
•   OSHA-mandated training may require certification of successful completion of the training course, including passing an evaluation.