From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, training is "the action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behaviour". When I consider the courses I have delivered, how many have really been about information ("facts provided or learned") where the recipient can take it or leave it, depending on their interest or retention level? How many have been instructional ("a direction or order") where the delegate has had to follow rules or procedures, often without really understanding the "why"? How many have resulted in the person learning a particular skill (to a predetermined level of proficiency), which will actively change their behaviour and lead to improved safety or health-related outcomes?
Many employers provide training because it is a legal requirement or they want to develop employees. But do they really consider the purpose of the courses, or measure the benefit to employee and employer?
In June 2011, the Cochrane Collaboration, a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and people interested in health (bit.ly/2ql6Vts), carried out research to determine the effectiveness of manual handling advice and training and the provision of assistive devices in preventing and treating back pain. It concluded that neither approach was effective in itself.
Sending someone on a course will not miraculously change the way people do things. They have to be supported beyond the training
The type of training provided might explain this. Many employers spend huge sums putting employees through manual handling courses each year. Most consist of e-learning, watching a video or picking up polystyrene boxes in a classroom. Few focus on the practical application of real-world manual handling.
It's questionable whether attendees will change their behaviour on the back of a short course. Even if they do learn something new and decide to change their behaviour, first they have to overcome their own muscle memory (which prompts them to do what they've always done), and that can take months.
So sending someone on a course will not miraculously change the way people do things. They have to be supported beyond the training to reap the full benefits.
This leads on to another issue that I encounter with employers. Many lack a training strategy or at least one that is bound to their overall business objectives.
Employers should ask themselves some key questions before they run any course.
What is it that they want to achieve and, to reach this goal, what is it that employees need to be able to do? What standard are they looking for or going to apply? Can they deliver the programme or do they need external assistance? What is the best delivery method? How will they know whether the programme has achieved its intended outcomes? Finally, how will they measure those intended outcomes and who will undertake the measurement?
It is heartening that the institution’s programme will have as one of its aims the development of strategic partnerships through collaboration. Working with other people, individually and organisationally, in a spirit of mutual respect and forging partnerships that could improve safety and health anywhere in the world is a virtuous aim.
Our first annual salary survey highlights the fact that, in the UK at least, the safety and health profession is ageing faster than some others. Only 15% of the practitioners who took part in our poll were under 35 and the median average age was between 45 and 54. The median for the whole working population is 42.
Although no one can unwind the loss, from every tragedy comes lessons on how to prevent a reoccurrence. It is the job of the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), a small, independent, non-regulatory federal agency, to investigate these disasters and to educate and advocate safety changes to prevent future destruction and fatality.
It’s a biological necessity. If our brains lacked the capacity to downgrade or screen out repeated stimuli, and the trains running past your house were as distracting the 1,000th time as the first, we would be constantly overstimulated and incapable of filtering and prioritising vital information.The numbing effect of repetition is well recognised by pay and benefits specialists who have long known that, no matter how rewarding a bonus scheme, it will incentivise people only so long before its effect on performance dies away and it has to be replaced.
The approach of many training courses is to raise workers’ awareness of risks and precautions and to impart knowledge about ways to respond to those risks that are most likely to protect. The final assumed or stated aim is to encourage behaviour that aligns with good practice.Although there have been some serious efforts at investigating the return on investment from safety and health programmes – from the ROI Institute, for example – we tend to assume that more is better, and that increasing our training efforts will naturally yield greater effectiveness.