It affects all organisations and applies to every employee. Health and Safety is both an employee welfare issue and a legal requirement and it has implications for a business’s performance and productivity. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) calculated that over 30 million working days were lost to the economy in 2017 due to Health and Safety issues. That’s in addition to the grimmer statistics on workplace injuries and fatalities.
So how should your organisation tackle the Health and Safety headache?
The obvious practical and indeed mandated response is to provide Health and Safety training across your organisation to increase awareness, prevent accidents and meet legal requirements. The HSE and other organisations offer resources to help you create a training programme. You’ll probably have designated Health and Safety officers within your organisation.
So far, so good and so predictable. But as we know from experience, training, especially compliance training, is often ineffective and barely adequate. The real question is then not do you provide training, but how do you provide effective training that doesn’t just remind employees of their obligations but instills in them a culture of health and safety that they apply in their day-to-day work.
If you can answer that question, the reward is not only a healthier and safer workplace for all, but can also provide positive benefits for the business’s bottom line.
Here we’ll look not just at how you go about providing training but also how you make it effective for the modern workforce. How do you keep pace with changing regulations and how do you inculcate a Health and Safety culture in your employees?
Health and Safety training is often simply reactive. A piece of legislation is handed down and a training event is organised to make employees aware of the changes to regulations and their responsibilities to stick to it. This is a tick-the-box approach that gives the potentially harmful message that it’s sufficient just to sit through the training to be compliant.
To be effective training needs to be a continuous process and not a one-off event. This chimes with the experience of modern learners who are used to having access to information when and where they need it and not just when someone decides they need to learn something new. The expectation of learner control and self-direction can be harnessed by Learning and Development departments to improve training effectiveness and create a real learning culture within the organisation.
Making training a true process means increasing access to it. It makes sense then to free it from the constraints of the classroom and the LMS letting your employees have access to Health and Safety training, where and when they need it as part of their normal working practice. You should try to make your training continuously available on mobile devices and across platforms. Enable notifications that inform them of changes, updates or refresher training they need to be aware of.
Instead of waiting for a new training event, employees can keep up to date at work. If information is accessed and used on the job, it increases the sense of relevance and understanding, cementing the critical importance of being compliant.
Access, though, is only part of the solution. Effective training requires learners to be motivated and involved, not just during the training, but afterwards too in the critical implementation stage. Perception can play a clear role here with campaigns that drive home the relevance of Health and Safety for all across the workplace.
With Health and Safety training it’s important that it’s not just regarded as part of the onboarding stage. Management’s championing of Health and Safety and leading by example can increase its profile, but ultimately a culture of responsibility needs to run through the organisation and that applies not just to an employee’s own conduct, but also to his or her understanding on the Health and Safety of the wider environment. Health and Safety training needs to be considered an integral aspect of performance and best practice, not as something that exists outside the job.
Training can enhance motivation by being relevant and credible. Remember that your providing Health and Safety training to your employees, in your workplace environment. It’s easy to regard regulations as abstract, applying to the whole but not the parts. But it’s vital that it’s seen as an essential component of good working practice.
Training has greater impact when learners see the meaning in what they’re learning. Introducing, scenarios and stories can be a powerful way of delivering that meaning. Scenarios and stories that are true to the work experience, relevant and mimic the situations in which employees regularly find themselves in enable employees to act compliantly when confronted by a real-life Health and Safety issue. Use of role-playing scenarios adds credibility and effectiveness by revealing how Health and Safety legislation applies to employees in their jobs. This approach can demonstrate vividly how Health and Safety rules and regulations should be applied in practice.
Applying a range of learning strategies can make Health and Safety training more engaging and memorable. Innovations like gamifying learning, making it a challenge, can encourage employees to learn by taking decisions in a safe but competitive environment. Instead of being passive receivers, learners discover and apply learning for themselves. Learning games also offer a way of rewarding learners for what they already know.
Microlearning can also can help. Divide your training into manageable chunks that can be accessed and digested easily. Small snippets of information along with repetition and spaced learning aid retention. Quick quizzes or tests help reinforce what’s been learned.
Nuggets of information can be made available of mobile devices too, making them continuously accessible. Because they have a short duration, they can be reviewed during a break without an employee giving up working time to sit training.
Consider creating a library of Health and Safety resources that can be re-used and repurposed to get the most from your content
You don’t necessarily need to create your own Health and Safety training. E-learning modules offer a ready-made solution that can be adapted to meet your needs. Many of them are approved by industry and regulatory bodies so you can be sure they represent best practice in Health and Safety compliance.
Health and Safety e-learning courses offer advantages over traditional, one-off classroom training by presenting material in a more attractive and attention-grabbing manner through the use of multimedia elements, such as images, animations, and videos. And the digital content can be easily made available across devices and platforms.
E-learning modules can be customised to reflect the Health and Safety culture and approach of a particular organisation. They can also be easily and quickly updated as Health and Safety regulations and practices change or new areas of Health and Safety, such as mental health, require greater attention.
There are plenty of training options out there, what you can’t do is leave Health and Safety to chance as you are leaving the well-being and welfare of your employees at stake. Effective training can instill practices so that Health and Safety becomes part of an organisation’s culture.
But the benefits of good Health and Safety training go beyond reducing risk. They extend to making your organisation a better place to work. This means improved employee morale which reduces attrition rates and attracts talent. Providing and maintaining a healthy and safe environment leads directly to better performance and increased productivity.
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