Back to Basics is a weekly feature that highlights important but possibly overlooked information that any EHS professional should know. This week, we look at recommendations for providing effective safety training.
Training is an important part of workplace safety programs. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has more than 100 standards that contain training requirements. In OSHA’s Resource for Development and Delivery of Training to Workers, the agency provides guidance on how to develop and deliver effective training to workers.
There are several factors that contribute to successful training, including ensuring that the training facilitator has expertise in safety and health, sound instructional skills, and flexibility, according to OSHA. Effective training should enable participants to learn how to:
- Identify safety and health problems in their workplace
- Analyze the causes of the safety and health problems
- Bring about safer, healthier workplaces
- Involve co-workers in accomplishing the above
Characteristics of sound training programs
The best training programs have the following characteristics in common, according to OSHA. They should be:
- Accurate. Training materials should be prepared by qualified individuals, updated as needed, and facilitated by appropriately qualified and experienced individuals employing appropriate training techniques and methods.
- Credible. Training facilitators should have a general safety and health background or be a subject matter expert in a health or safety-related field. They should also have experience training adults or experience working with the target population. Practical experience in the field of safety and health as well as experience in training facilitation contribute to a higher degree of facilitator credibility.
- Clear. Training programs must not only be accurate and believable, but they must also be clear and understandable to the participant. If the material is only understandable to someone with a college education or someone who understands the jargon, then the program falls short of meeting workers’ needs. Training materials should be written in the language and grammar of the everyday speech of the participants. Training developers should ensure that readability and language choices match the intended audience. For employees who do not speak or understand English, instruction must be provided in a language that the employee can understand. Similarly, if the employee’s vocabulary is limited or there is evidence of low literacy among participants, the training must account for this limitation.
- Practical. Training programs should present information, ideas, and skills that participants see as directly useful in their working lives. Successful transfer of learning occurs when the participant can see how information presented in a training session can be applied in the workplace.
To maximize the benefits of the training for participants, trainers need to focus on the following best practices, according to OSHA.
Remember your intended audience: The training should be intended for employers, safety officers, or any organization that provides occupational safety and health training.
Training techniques, methods, and modes:
- Proven adult learning techniques should be at the core of training development and delivery.
- One effective worker training model is peer-to-peer training with activity-based learning. The organization should provide ongoing support to developing peer trainers.
- Use activity-based learning for at least two-thirds of training hours, meaning no more than one third is lectures.
- Training must be provided both in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand.
- Computer-based training is effective but should not be the only form of training that workers receive.
Needs assessment: Precede safety and health training with a needs assessment to ensure the training meets the needs of participants. These assessments can also tell you more about participants’ knowledge, experience, learning styles, reading and writing skills, and interests.
Evaluate training: Evaluate your training to assess whether it is having the desired results. An evaluation can indicate whether you need to make changes to the program.
Principles of adult education
OSHA cites the following basic principles of adult education to help trainers provide effective training:
- Most adults learn because they want to and have decided they need to learn for a particular reason.
- Relevance: Adults need to see that the subject matter and methods are relevant to their lives and what they want to learn.
- Adults should be encouraged to share their experiences and knowledge.
- Adult learners resent an instructor who talks down to them and ignores their ideas and concerns.
- Adults need to be involved and actively participating in class.
- Adults retain more information when they use and practice their knowledge and skills in class.
- Learners need “route maps” with clear objectives. Each new piece of information needs to build logically on the previous one.
- Adults learn best when new information is reinforced and repeated.
- Adults learn better when an instructor uses a variety of teaching techniques.
Visit here for more guidance on how to provide effective safety training.