In today’s companies, workplace safety is a high priority. To ensure the protection of their workers, many employers establish safety and health training programs in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and guidelines.
Employee safety programs focus on preventing injuries, illnesses, and deaths, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) said in “Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.” They also prepare workers for problems that may arise as a result of injuries, such as financial hardships.
Safety training can be conducted in a variety of ways, from in-person sessions from occupational safety management instructors to online health and safety courses.
Companies are also increasing their investment in safety training. In 2017, they spent an average of $1,075 per employee – up from $814 per worker in 2016 – on safety training, according to the Association for Talent Development’s 2017 Industry Training Report, published in Training Magazine.
The problem is that an estimated 70 percent of employees forget what they learned within 24 hours of the training session, according to GetBridge.com, an employee development company.
Safety training is not one-size-fits-all, James Kendrick, past president of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), said in “Five Safety Training Pitfalls to Avoid” on the ASSP website.
“Many facilitators just cram as much text as they can onto a slide, then read it out loud word-for-word without tying the material back to people’s lives,” he noted. “Eyeball-to-eyeball contact” between participants and the safety instructors is also effective for helping workers retain the information, he added.
For aspiring safety training instructors who hope to be involved in developing effective safety training programs, a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety can provide a solid foundation.
Designing More Effective Safety Training
An important objective for safety trainers can be helping companies understand and overcome common reasons why safety programs fail to deliver as intended, including:
1. Lack of top-level engagement
Some managers believe that safety issues only apply to front-line workers, according to Occupational Health and Safety Magazine. Or they may not really understand how a safety program works.
According to an OSHA draft report on safety and health management guidelines, managers at all levels should “make safety and health a core organizational value, establish safety and health goals and objectives, provide adequate resources and support for the program, and set a good example.”
When managers are diligent about following industry and corporate safety procedures and protocols, workers will follow suit.
2. Insufficient access to program materials
Online safety training courses are becoming popular because of their convenience, but not all workers have access to computers with the necessary video functionality to take advantage of them.
Bringing an instructor onsite can make safety training and the related materials available to a wider range of employees, the ASSP said.
3. Inattention during training sessions
Concern about work-related responsibilities can keep workers from being fully engaged in the safety training session.
“The distraction of work can be a real problem. I’ve had clients request that people not bring electronic devices into a seminar, but unfortunately that’s not always enough because they still feel like they’re on-call,” training facilitator Joel Tietjens told the ASSP.
Keeping topics short – most people can only retain about 20 minutes worth of information in a 90-minute lecture, according to OHS – and scheduling frequent breaks can help everyone retain the material better.
4. No written version of the program’s rules and regulations
A written policy helps companies set out policies and procedures in a clear manner and makes the safety program available for workers to review.
“A clear, written policy helps you communicate that safety and health is a primary organizational value and is as important as productivity, profitability, product or service quality, and customer satisfaction,” according to the OSHA management guidelines.
Clearly communicated rules and procedures can also safeguard companies in the event of workers’ compensation violations and legal claims, according to EHS Today.
5. Insufficient review of OSHA materials
Job-related risks to workers vary by profession and companies are responsible for making sure that safety plans comply with OSHA standards for the industry.
Companies should review relevant OSHA letters, directives, official guidebooks, and case law when forming safety programs, according to EHS Today, and occupational safety management workers should review all applicable OSHA resources.
6. No designated safety officer
Under U.S. law, employers are required to provide a safe working environment.
Safety training officers identify risks and suggest ways that a company can improve its existing safety practices. They also work to prevent injury and illness on the job.
Without a safety officer, companies are at risk for losses in productivity caused by accidents or ill health, legal costs, and insurance premium increases caused by workplace safety incidents.
Becoming an Occupational Safety Officer
Ensuring compliance with OSHA regulations is a primary responsibility for those in occupational safety management positions. Other responsibilities can include:
- Managing risks to employees and the employer
- Investigating safety and health incidents
- Providing safety training
- Serving as the safety program point of contact
Job growth for occupational safety specialists and managers is projected to increase 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary for occupational health and safety specialists as of May 2018, the latest date for which figures are available, was $73,020. The highest-paid field is manufacturing, where the median salary was $73,880.
About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety
Eastern Kentucky University’s online bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety program can prepare graduates for a range of positions in the health and safety field. The 100 percent online program lets students pursue an education while working as a safety professional and managing personal responsibilities.
Coursework covers topics such as workers’ compensation, safety management and environmental law and management. For more information, contact EKU today.
About OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs: Department of Labor
The Employee Forgetfulness Index: GetBridge.com
Five Safety Training Pitfalls To Avoid: American Society of Safety Professionals
2017 Industry Training Report: Training
Top 10 Implementation Pitfalls of a Safety Observation Program: OHS magazine
OSHA safety and health program management guidelines: OSHA
Best Practices for Engaging Workers in Health and Safety Training: OHS online
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Common OSHA Compliance Mistakes: EHS Today
Job growth: Bureau of Labor Statistics