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A Guide to Improving Your Employee Safety Training

Creating safety training for employees is right up there with root canals and post-holiday clean-up on the list of things that no one wants to do. Although it may not be fun to create, your safety training program will protect your organization and its most valuable resources (your human workforce) from harm

There’s no downside to training your employees on proper safety protocols. In fact, investing in employee safety will benefit your organization in several key ways. By implementing safety training in your organization, you’ll:

  • Reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries and fatalities
  • Prevent property damage and associated financial loss
  • Earn the respect of your employees and improve overall morale
  • Increase productivity
  • Retain more of your employees
  • Build a solid reputation for your organization

If you operate a small- or medium-sized business, you have a big incentive to build an employee safety program sooner rather than later. If one of your employees gets hurt on the job because they were not properly trained, they may need to go on sick leave. You’ll feel their absence more because, in smaller businesses, each individual employee pulls more weight.

Additionally, when an employee gets hurt on the job, you may need to hire a new employee (even if on a temporary basis) to cover the vacancy. Hiring is not only time-consuming, but it’s also an expensive process.

As you can see, there are many great benefits to developing your employee safety training program. It should definitely be one of your goals for this year.

But how do you do it? Where do you start? And do you have to start over from scratch if you already have a basic safety training program?

In this guide, we’ll provide you with tips on how to create or re-vamp your employee safety training program. By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to create an effective program that works for your organization. Let’s get started.

What is Employee Safety Training

To ensure that we’re all on the same page, let’s quickly define “employee safety training.”

Employee safety training, often referred to as workplace safety training, is the process of educating your employees on safe practices in the workplace. This includes identifying potential hazards, moderating risky behavior, and reporting unsafe conditions.

Safety training isn’t just “nice to have,” it’s also legally mandatory. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, is a federal agency that ensures safe and healthful working conditions for US workers. This agency issues laws and regulations that employers must abide by to create a safe working environment.

Tips for Creating Your Safety Training for Employees

Here’s what you need to know to build an effective employee safety training program, or improve your old one so that it meets the current needs of your organization:

1. Start With The Bare Minimum

When it comes to developing an employee safety training program, you must first start with OSHA’s list.

OSHA has published a list of standards that all US employers must comply with, and these include the following for general industry employers:

  1. The education of employers and employees on how to handle hazardous chemicals in the workplace
  2. The creation of an emergency action plan so that employees understand what to do in the event of a fire or other emergency situation
  3. The creation of a fire prevention plan
  4. Complying with OSHA’s requirements for exit routes in the workplace
  5. The development of a personal fall protection system for all walking or working surfaces
  6. The availability of medical and first-aid personnel and supplies that meet the hazards of the workplace

See the full list of OSHA compliance standards here.

While the OSHA standards are broad, they’re also the bare minimum because they apply generally to all organizations. Your employee safety training program should definitely build off of OSHA’s standards and be customized to your specific organization and its needs.

2. Identify Your Unique Job Hazards

The next step in creating your employee safety training program is to assess your organization’s unique risks by performing a job hazard analysis. This is a tool where you look at each individual step that’s necessary to perform a job.

For example, does an employee need to walk, lift, climb, push, reach into, or grab in order to perform a job duty? Then consider how these activities can potentially lead to harm. Finally, create a list of best practices or recommended actions to avoid harm.

3. Create Training Objectives

After you’ve identified your workplace’s unique hazards, it’s time to train your team on proper protocol. First, set training objectives. This is a list of outcomes you want your employees to have as a result of participating in your safety training program. Some common objectives include:

  • Identifying common workplace hazards
  • Understanding how they can reduce the risk of harm
  • Knowing how to act in the case of an emergency
  • Understanding their responsibility in the workplace

Next, identify what your employees need to know in order to be safe. Your employees may not need to know all of the safety rules for your organization, especially if you’ve developed a unique set of safety standards for each department. However, your employees should know the general rules of your workplace.

4. Train Your Employees

After you’ve identified safety standards for your workplace, the next step is to train your employees. But try not to think of safety training as a one-and-done program. There are likely multiple elements to your safety program, and it’s best to take a multi-step approach to the training process. For example:

Provide a comprehensive overview of your safety protocols to all of your employees. Do this once for all current employees, especially if you’ve developed a new safety protocol or extensively updated your previous one. You’ll also do this when onboarding new hires.

Divide your training into chunks where you only concentrate on one issue at a time. This will prevent you from overloading your employees with too much information. Because safety information is so valuable, you can’t afford for your employees to not remember a procedure that could, quite possibly, save their life.

There are several ways to chunk information, but one way is to start with the big picture in one meeting and then, in subsequent meetings, follow up with a more detailed discussion of each individual sub-topic.

Not only is it important to break up safety training to ensure maximum retention, but it’s also important to provide continuous refreshment of your safety protocols. This will ensure that workplace safety stays at the forefront of your employees’ minds.

5. Train Your Managers

Your employees shouldn’t be held to a different standard than your managers. It’s everyone’s job to prevent hazards and keep the workplace safe for others. Managers should have at least the same training as employees when it comes to health protocols, handling equipment, emergency procedures, and reducing harm.

Managers have an additional responsibility to ensure that their teams are fully trained in safety protocols and to establish open communication. Employees should feel comfortable discussing safety concerns with their managers, as well as reporting potential hazards to them. This open dialogue can help you spot potential risks before it’s too late. And it will help you create a culture of workplace safety that will benefit everyone.

By creating an employee safety training program, you’ll improve work conditions for your employees, which will positively impact their morale and productivity. Use the above tips to create a training program that addresses your unique needs and ensures that your employees are protected from harm.

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