Designing and implementing an effective, ongoing safety training program is important for a number of reasons. From straightforward safety improvements to government mandates, the reasons for implementing a safety training program are multi-faceted.
First and foremost, it is required by law. Having some sort of ongoing safety training is required by OSHA and similar state authorities. Furthermore, a company may be subject to fines by OSHA inspectors for failing to comply with OSHA standards.
Safety training programs are also proven to improve safety awareness in general. Studies of companies consistently reveal that effective training can dramatically increase the level of employee awareness and interest in safety. For example, a study conducted by Safety Shorts Inc. found that 97 percent of respondents positively indicated marked improvement of safety awareness in those companies that had ongoing programs.
Similarly, safety training programs improve employee attitudes toward safety. The Safety Shorts survey revealed that 95 percent of companies noticed significant increases in employee attitudes toward safety once an ongoing program was initiated.
Moreover, safety training programs influence reductions in accidents. While it is impossible to put an exact figure on the impact that training has on accident reduction, companies that have ongoing training programs are four times more likely to reduce accidents than those that do not have ongoing programs, a figure also delivered by the Safety Shorts organization.
Steps in the process
It’s clear that safety training, in conjunction with other safety efforts, can have a dramatic impact on the success of the overall effort to reduce work-related injuries. But sometimes it’s hard to know where or how to begin.
The key to developing and implementing an effective safety training program is taking an organized approach and following proven techniques. Here are the steps to take that will lead to a safety training program of which anyone can be proud.
Step 1: Identify problem areas
The first step is to identify those areas of your operation that require special attention and improvement. In order to properly perform this initial step, a number of areas of your facility must be evaluated. Keep in mind any new equipment that isn’t familiar to employees, such as new robotic welding systems.
Step 2: Determine if training is the best solution
According to OSHA’s Voluntary Training Guidelines: Whenever employees are not performing their jobs properly, it is often assumed that training will bring them up to standard. However, it is possible that other actions (such as hazard abatement or the implementation of engineering controls) would enable employees to perform their jobs properly.
Step 3: Prioritize training
Prioritize your safety training efforts so you are maximizing the time and other resources of those involved, so that the improvement can be achieved.
Step 4: Prepare for training session(s)
A Safety Shorts survey of safety training material purchases found that training programs are best conducted by means of audiovisuals. In addition, safety training is most effective when employees can relate personal experiences to the topic and when the message applies both on and off the job in a repetitive manner. A key component of a training program is employee participation. Paradoxically, employee participation is often the most difficult ingredient in successful training.
Step 5: Conducting the training session(s)
It’s common to use prepared safety training materials from third-party sources. Whatever your source of material, always try to adapt it so the material relates to your specific situation and needs. Also, where possible, show or demonstrate the equipment or procedures associated with the topic. Think about using an audience member for the demonstration – someone who is already familiar with the subject matter. This conveys the message that there are already employees who take safety seriously and makes the meeting more interesting to the audience.
Step 6: Evaluate and improve the program
Obviously, no person or organization is going to be perfect all the time. Even the best safety trainers constantly look for ways to improve their presentations. So, do not get down if things do not go as well as you planned. Instead, learn from the experience and apply those lessons to future safety meetings. Evaluating the effectiveness of your safety training program should be done regularly to determine what has worked best and what could be done to improve your results.
Total cost of risk
Beyond the expected reasons to establish an in-house safety training program, such as reducing workplace accidents and lowering insurance costs, business owners look to these programs as a way to reduce a company’s total cost of risk (TCOR). As an insurance agent for more than 35 years specializing in the manufacturing industry, and as a sponsor of the Precision Metalforming Association’s Safety Award of Excellence for the past 10 years, you would expect me, the author of this article, to say you need a great safety training program to reduce your insurance costs. The fact of the matter is that insurance is a critical risk management tool, but it’s not the only component involved in a company’s TCOR.
Workplace accidents have obvious, direct financial ramifications, including medical, hospital and rehabilitation expenses as well as lost wages and higher insurance premiums, or, in some cases, a total loss of insurability. However, there are many indirect costs that are usually uninsured yet can seriously affect your company’s bottom line. These can be much greater than the insured part of the loss.
These uninsured indirect costs are the result of the marginal inefficiencies to your manufacturing or service process as a result of a work-related injury. The following are just some of the uninsured costs:
- The time spent by supervisor(s) and human resource staff in responding to the injury, taking the injured employee to get medical help, investigating the injury and managing the claim throughout the entire process.
- The costs associated with the inactivity of equipment or inventory as a direct result of the injured employee’s absences, if they are not replaced at least temporarily. This equipment or inventory would remain idle and not contribute to production or service delivery.
- The costs incurred by replacing the injured employee while off work. This may take the form of overtime paid to existing employees, hiring a temporary worker or paying a job placement firm to fill the void.
- The injury itself will be disruptive to fellow employees. They usually take time to talk about the injury, which affects productivity.
- Fellow employees may depend on the injured employee for his or her productivity and, because that has been lost, their productivity now is compromised, as well.
When business owners and safety officers have a better understanding of how to implement an effective safety training program, and when they have a better understanding of the effects that safety training can have on the overall TCOR, the results can be quite astounding – from a safety standpoint and a financial standpoint.
As an example of the financial benefits, the return on investment for safety training programs includes the elimination or reduction of the indirect costs that go along with a loss, thereby increasing a company’s profits by eliminating financial leakage. From my experience in the manufacturing industry, these indirect costs can be anywhere from half to five times the cost of the insured part of the loss.
In the end, there are various reasons to initiate an ongoing safety training program. For additional assistance fleshing out the steps to safety success, a 13-page white paper called “How to Develop and Implement a Focused, Cost Effective Safety Training Program to Reduce the Total Cost of Worker Injuries” is available for download.