Training is to learning as Boardwalk is to Monopoly. It isn’t the game, but it is an important piece; everybody wants to own it, and it is hard to win without it.
Often recognized as the missing link in fall protection, “lack of training” and “inadequate” training are frequently cited by statistics and legal cases as some of the primary causes of fall-related injuries and/or fatalities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported for 2004 the highest recorded number of fatal work fall injuries since 1992, while all other workplace deaths rose only slightly. Review OSHA Fatal Facts and you will discover training listed as one of the most common deficiencies in a safety program.
One of the first steps to developing an effective safety training program is to evaluate your safety culture. A safety culture that supports, expects and reinforces safe worker behavior contributes to a higher and more successful level of learning. A company’s safety culture provides tremendous influence on and value to its workers.
Measure your trainingUse the following scorecard to measure your safety culture’s training program (scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest):
_____ Measures safety knowledge
_____ Matches worker roles, responsibilities and management expectations
_____ Has management support
_____ Company safety policies and procedures are consistent to safety expectations
_____ Incorporates adult learning techniques
_____ Measures learning by observation, discussion and testing
_____ Communicates and reinforces desired safety changes, actions and behaviors
_____ All divisions are represented at introduction and/or planning meetings
_____ Safety committee members visit and observe various divisions
_____ Committee solicits and values feedback from division and committee
_____ Management, including legal, purchasing and design, are active participants in safety meetings
_____ Information and goals are clearly outlined and explained
_____ Staff, resources and deadlines are assigned to each safety task
_____ Progress is evaluated on a frequent basis
_____ Regular program updates until goals are achieved
_____ Annual evaluation
Maintain credibilityAfter doing your evaluation, the next step is to determine why and how you develop your safety training programs. A common complaint among workers regarding training courses has to do with the lack of upfront planning to keep “flavor of the month” training out of the safety program. Employees become immune to these knee-jerk approaches and tend not to take safety efforts to heart since they believe the program will be changing soon â€” “Why should I bother to take training seriously when I will be asked to change what I have learned in a matter of months.”
Your staff isn’t saying they don’t want to make an effort to add to their safety knowledge, nor are they objecting to strengthening their safety skills. They are, however, voicing concern about learning information not applicable to or of little perceived value to the safety effort. This concern is then validated when the safety program is scrapped and management moves on to the next “flavor.” This tactic only lessens the credibility of your safety training and, in turn, threatens worker safety.
A safety culture that supports or requires worker behavior that eliminates the contributing factors to fall-related injuries and fatalities, and a workforce that understands why and how you developed your fall protection training programs, are two key elements of effective training.
Statistics and indicatorsIf you question the need to strengthen or initiate a fall protection training program, take a look at the numbers. While OSHA regulations and safety equipment requirements are the most commonly recognized safeguards, they are not enough.
- BLS reported its highest number of fatal work fall injuries for 2004 since 1992.
- Top three work-at-height activities with the highest fall fatalities: roofs, scaffolds and ladders.
- Worker ages with the highest fall fatalities are 25-54 years old.
- Number of hazards designed into the workplace;
- Maintenance activities performed without fall protection;
- Unidentified anchorages;
- Unsafe work practices;
- High number of non-compliance violations;
- Rising number of product liability cases;
- Number of workers not wearing or improperly wearing fall protection equipment;
- Lack of safety language in design, construction and purchasing contracts;
- Lack of site-specific fall protection training;
Number of untrained staff who have been given safety responsibilities due to the downsizing of staff.
Learning versus trainingHow is training different from learning? Training is a part of the learning process and requires certain elements to be in place before it can occur. ANSI Z490.1 Standard – Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health, and Environmental Training provides guidelines, tools and approaches to training. Effective programs incorporate adult personality traits and learning styles as an active part of their safety learning programs. These tools show us which learning tools delivered in various mediums are most effective for the introduction, understanding and application of knowledge. The guidelines also educate teachers/trainers that one medium is not an effective learning tool. Learning cannot be accomplished via one method or one time. Learning requires introduction, application and evaluation via discussion, lecture, practice and retention activities. The role of learning in the fall protection process:
- Introduces fall protection concepts;
- Creates a common foundation of knowledge to move toward a common goal versus separate directions;
- Facilitates teamwork;
- Develops safer work practices and behaviors;
- Creates a lasting safety legacy.
There are simple, cost-effective ways to revitalize and strengthen your safety training efforts. Work with a consultant to review and evaluate your safety training programs. They can make recommendations with an objective perspective and also guide you from thought to implementation. Universities such as Marshall University in Huntington, W.V., and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., offer adult learning courses your in-house trainers can attend.
Most importantly, clearly identify compliance, company safety policies, best industry safety practices and work activity requirements, and evaluate if your training programs prepare your workers to safely meet those obligations. Safety isn’t simple, it just isn’t complicated.
Sidebar: Standards can helpThe proposed ANSI Z359.1 is a safety milestone for fall protection. Comprehensive in nature, it gathers all the elements of a fall protection program under one umbrella and provides the tools to implement these elements effectively and with understanding. By combining the guidelines of Z359.1 and Z490.1 you can improve the quality of life for employees and your company, strengthen the employee/employer relationship, generate a competitive edge and acquire predictable results for your fall protection program.
Sidebar: Proactive safety cultures share the following characteristics:
- They create buy-in to new information and plans of action.
- They are an integral part of workers’ safety value system.
- They reflect a caring, purposeful and committed culture.
- They connect people together and facilitate the implementation of improvement.