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Ideas for improving worker training

Just as improved technology should at some point make the workplace safer there is also a focus on improved training. Delivering workplace safety training will not in itself make the workplace much safer. It is important how this training is delivered.

Most employees are only going to retain a portion of what they are told in training sessions. One study has shown that only 15 percent of employees were actually able to apply what they learned in these training sessions. Training is more challenging today because there is more diversity at the workplace. There are cultural differences at the workplace.  We also have more workers who speak different languages.

Training is not always consistently presented. Certain facilities do a better job at training their workers than do others. Also, certain facilities may be more resistant to change.

One thing appears clear is that what is called bite-sized learning will have to be emphasized more when it comes to workplace safety training. We need to avoid information overload when it comes to employees. Keeping the training shorter and simpler will help. Keeping the trainings in small bursts (one to five minutes) often prevents overload for employees who are expected to remember a variety of items. Also, training sometimes requires repetition. Only being provided information once can sometimes be inadequate.

The training (or lack of training) employers provide will be examined by attorneys representing injured workers. Though certain employers may feel such training is too costly, the cost of an injury to an employee costs everyone money. In Maryland, for example, employers can be held responsible for on-the-job injuries under workers' compensation laws. We cannot afford for employers to take shortcuts when it comes to worker safety.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety magazine, “The Future of Safety Training,” Carol Leaman, Sept. 23, 2013

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