While building and maintaining a forward-looking EHS compliance assurance program is vital for ensuring your organization is mitigating its risks of violations and fines, it’s also important to proactively provide safety training to employees. Not only does safety training protect the workers’ health and well-being, it also can improve your company’s bottom line.
“Training in the safe way for workers to do their jobs well is an investment that will pay back over and over in fewer injuries and illnesses, better morale, lower insurance premiums and more,” according to OSHA’s Training Requirements in OSHA Standards.
Also according to OSHA’s Guidelines for Safety and Health Programs, education and training provides employers, managers, supervisors, and workers with:
• Knowledge and skills needed to do their work safely and avoid creating hazards that could place themselves or others at risk.
• Awareness and understanding of workplace hazards and how to identify, report, and control them.
• Specialized training, when their work involves unique hazards.
Training requirements vary greatly depending on each operating site’s unique processes and conditions, so mapping out compliance obligations for each site is an important first step. Training requirements also vary greatly depending on each employee’s role, according to OSHA. For example, employers, managers, and supervisors may need specific training to ensure that they can fulfill their roles in providing leadership, direction, and resources for the safety and health program. Workers assigned specific roles in the program (e.g., incident investigation team members) may need training to ensure their full participation in those functions.
Effective training and education can be provided outside a formal classroom setting using peer-to-peer training, on-the-job training, worksite demonstrations, and online training and learning systems. These are good ways to convey safety concepts, ensure understanding of hazards and their controls, and promote good work practices.
OSHA recommends four training action items:
- Provide program awareness training
- Train employers, managers, and supervisors on their roles in the program
- Train workers on their specific roles in the safety and health program
- Train workers on hazard identification and controls
Program Awareness Training
Managers, supervisors, and workers need to understand how the program is structured as well as its plans and procedures. To accomplish this, provide training to all managers, supervisors, workers, and contractor/subcontractor/temporary agency workers on the following:
- Safety and health policies, goals, and procedures
- Functions of the safety and health program
- Who should be contacted with questions or concerns about the program
- How to report hazards, injuries, illnesses, and near misses
- What to do in an emergency
- Workers’ rights under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act
Employers also should provide information on workplace safety and health hazards and controls for those hazards. They should ensure that training is provided in the languages and at a literacy level that all workers can understand. OSHA says employers should also emphasize that the program can only work when everyone is involved and feels comfortable discussing concerns, making suggestions, and reporting injuries, incidents, and hazards. It is important that the training makes clear that all workers have the right to report injuries, incidents, hazards, and concerns without fear of retaliation.
Training for Employers, Managers, and Supervisors
To ensure employers, managers, and supervisors are fully responsible for workers’ safety, specific training is helpful, according to OSHA. This includes:
- Ensuring that employers/managers/supervisors understand their responsibilities under the OSH Act and the workers’ rights guaranteed by the Act.
- Training employers/managers/supervisors on procedures for responding to worker reports of injuries, illnesses, and incidents, including ways to avoid discouraging reporting.
- Instructing employers/managers/supervisors on how to recognize hazards and methods of controlling them.
- Instructing employers/managers/supervisors on incident investigation techniques, such as root cause analysis.
Training Workers on Their Specific Roles in the Program
You may need to provide additional training for workers to ensure that they can incorporate any assigned safety and health responsibilities into their daily routines and activities. This includes:
- Instructing workers on how to report injuries, illnesses, incidents, and concerns.
- Explaining to workers assigned specific roles within the program on how to carry out their responsibilities, including hazard recognition and controls, participation in incident investigations, and program evaluation and improvement.
- Provide opportunities for workers to ask questions and provide feedback during and after the training.
- As the program evolves, institute a more formal process for determining the training needs of workers responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the program.
Training on Hazard Identification and Controls
To help eliminate hazards before an incident occurs, provide workers with an understanding of hazard recognition and control, and actively involve them in the process, according to OSHA. This can be done by:
- Training workers on how to identify hazards, such as doing a job hazard analysis.
- Training workers to understand and recognize the hazards they may encounter in their own jobs, as well as more general hazards.
- Instructing workers on concepts and techniques for controlling hazards, including the hierarchy of controls.
- Training workers on the proper use of work practice and administrative controls.
- Training workers on when and how to wear required PPE.
- Providing additional training as needed when a change in facilities, equipment, processes, materials, or work organization could increase hazards, and whenever a worker is assigned a new task.
Injuries are Costly
Proper safety training improves safety performance, which in turn boosts a business’s financial performance.
Injuries are going to happen in the workplace. Private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019, unchanged from 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last November. In 2019, the incidence rate of total recordable cases (TRC) in private industry was 2.8 cases per 100 full time equivalent (FTE) workers, which was the rate reported in 2018 and 2017.
The incidence rate of days away from work (DAFW) cases was 0.9 cases per 100 FTE workers and the incidence rate of days of job transfer and restriction only (DJTR) cases was 0.7 cases per 100 FTE workers, which were the rates reported in 2018. There were 888,220 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that caused a private industry worker to miss at least one day of work in 2019, essentially unchanged from 2018.
While some of these incidents can be attributed to negligence or other factors, a lack of training can also be the cause. This is yet another reason to ensure that your workers are properly trained, because clearly, losing workers to injury is expensive.