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Five Ways to Optimize Manufacturing Worker Safety Training
Workplace safety training remains a top priority for manufacturing companies that understand the importance of keeping their employees safe and protecting their bottom line. Many manufacturing leaders believe productivity can rise dramatically if employees consistently follow workplace safety rules. However, they also know that even with their best efforts applied to training, some employees still won’t follow workplace safety protocols on the floor.
What’s the disconnect in this scenario? Why are companies finding it difficult to train and motivate employees to work safely? And why aren’t employees listening?
Based on our recent survey of manufacturing facilities, the ability to deliver proper safety training is impeded by three main challenges: finding time, verifying that training is effective and an inability to follow up with refresher training.
We all know it’s difficult for management to shut down operations and set aside quotas to conduct training. However, workplace injuries have the potential to create extraordinary expenses and disruptions to production. Companies that provide effective safety training create an environment where employees are more likely to share best practices with each other.
When companies are measured strictly by production output, management may believe this means employees must be productive every single minute they’re clocked in which makes time for training non-existent.
To overcome this hurdle, safety professionals must show senior management how workplace safety training can positively impact production and profits. One way to do this is to connect training deliverables to company goals by measuring how good safety behaviors help meet production demands. This means stressing the importance of safety training beyond regulatory compliance and potential litigation.
Verifying the effectiveness of training is among the biggest challenges for manufacturing management. For some companies, training is conducted for the sole purpose of checking a compliance box. The real benefit of training should be based on whether or not it is effective enough to drive behavior changes.
For training, context and repetition are critical. Companies struggle to provide training that accurately reflects the work environment with company specific information, refresher training and reinforcement programs.The knowledge gained during training can be forgotten quickly unless reinforced.
With those challenges in mind, below are five suggested solutions to help you build a strong workplace safety training program.
Make training more effective with relatable site-specific photos and videos. By using course-authoring software to add site-specific photos and videos to training courses, companies can take training materials from generic to relevant and more relatable for workers.
This approach makes employees more engaged with company-provided training and more likely to show others how to perform job duties correctly and safely. While this seems to make sense at a gut level, the research adds concrete certainty to greater effectiveness when using site-specific examples in training.
Companies doing so are 30 percent more likely to have employees understand training, are two times more confident an employee can show another employee how to perform tasks correctly and safely and 124 percent more likely to be able to show correct on-the-floor safety behaviors.
Introduce and maximize training technology. Using a learning management system (LMS) to help manage training, companies can eliminate gaps that might put employees in harm’s way, reduce documentation errors, schedule and deliver more training and mitigate safety risks.
LMS software and apps can automate the record-keeping portion of your training program by syncing with your HR platform to manage and document training records. This saves time and proves, during an audit, employees not only took training but that they comprehended what they were taught. Tracking and trending data from the LMS helps companies proactively find gaps in training—either at company or individual level, which can then be filled to help prevent injuries before they occur.
The efficiencies alone speak volumes as companies make the best use of their LMS are able to provide 30 percent more refresher training and are 26 percent more likely to provide documented safety training to temporary or contract workers.
Make training more interactive. Interactive training means more than online participation. It involves trainee input and engagement throughout the training course. Audience response training technologies with games and intermittent quizzes can promote engagement with groups of employees simultaneously. This keeps the employee’s attention, makes training fun and encourages friendly competition amongst peers. Plus, the technology doubles to automatically document employee understanding digitally to discreetly identify workers who need individual attention. Companies using interactive audience response technology are 58 percent more likely to be able to verify if any specific employee understood his or her training.
Incorporate a strong, visible on-the-job training program. Workplace safety failures are frequently created by wrong information or unsanctioned shortcuts passing from one employee to another. Employees will always have questions when working on the floor. So, it’s essential to make sure they know where to go for the right answer. That’s where a more formal on-the-job training (OJT) program comes into play. With this approach, any question or potential mistake can be resolved before it impacts production, which is why 41 percent of safety training leaders cite formal OJT with sanctioned courses as the best way for an employee to learn and become qualified, compared to 14 percent voting for employee shadowing (aka, the buddy system).
With mobile technology, companies can quickly and easily create and deliver consistent and accurate OJT. Supervisors can use apps that provide company-sanctioned training on any mobile device, so training integrity and consistency are never in question.
Measure training effectiveness through on-the-floor behavior. To fully know if your time and money are being appropriately spent on training, you must measure employee behavior. Mobile technologies are available that can capture behavior observations electronically with tracking and trending of records for continuous improvement. All of this makes it easy with marginal to no impact on operational productivity.
By incorporating these workplace training practices, manufacturing companies can not only ensure their employees are working in a safe environment, but that their work is productive and rewarding. This creates an environment where worker retention, company efficiency — and ultimately, profitability — are optimized.
These five best practices can go a long way to keep a company’s workforce safer, while still maintain—or even improving—productivity and output. For more findings from the research, download a complimentary copy of The State of Workplace Safety Training report.
This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.