OSH training can be expensive and timeconsuming. However, legal requirements should determine how you plan your training, as Louise Hosking explains.
Training is an occupational safety and health (OSH) foundation. The Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASAWA) specifies the employer’s duty within section 2 (2)c:
“… the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health & safety at work of their employees”.
HASAWA is an enabling act so OSH regulations are created under it, which defines training requirements, reinforcing this principle. For example, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 contains clear requirements on providing asbestos awareness training.
And the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 defines the framework for how an organisation should create its arrangements for effective OSH delivery and risk assessment. It defines training for new people, the inexperienced or those exposed to specific hazards. UK law says if you create a hazard you must effectively communicate your expectations for control to your people.
OSH training should be ring-fenced when budgets are created along with the administration required to make sure that staff attend the right training at the right times, attendance records are kept, and refresher courses are organised.
It is essential to use results from risk assessments, personal development plans and feedback to create clear training plans for the company, for roles and for individuals.
Make training engaging
Legal requirements do not specify that individuals sit in a classroom and listen to a talk. Training should be engaging; make it fun and mix up delivery methods.
The LOcHER project was created to immerse college students in OSH principles. Encouraged to create experiments, video clips, posters and use social media to explore effects from hazards relevant to the curriculum, they create their own learning which results in lifelong knowledge.
Coaching techniques and problem-solving scenarios encourage people to become responsible for their own solutions.
E-learning enables training to be undertaken flexibly but be cautious of using this method in isolation. It doesn’t offer the opportunity for problem-solving in the same way and so trainees may report feeling told how to behave without participation or discussion.
Contact learning by a qualified, engaging trainer is the gold standard, especially if the training involves workshops, discussion and chances to share experiences. Virtual reality training can immerse trainees into a realistic environment and is becoming more common.
The legal requirement includes ‘supervision’. Training cannot fully replace effective, collaborative leadership support and guidance. Supervision can be achieved with on-the-job support, mentoring or by creating champions to whom peers can refer.
Non-technical skills such as project management, coaching and conflict management complement technical OSH training. Consider whether training has been effective and has met expectations from feedback and supervision post-training. If it has not, a different approach may be required.
Following a safety incident, questions will usually be asked about training delivery and risk assessment.
In 2017 supermarket giant Aldi was fined £1 million when a new employee suffered life-changing foot injuries while using work equipment. The courts were highly critical of Aldi’s approach to training.
Training delivery should be based on a clear vision and strategy from the highest level. Directors require training so they can consider the potential knock-on effect to decisions they make or fail to make around OSH. Executives must understand how their decisions can have a ripple effect.
I advocate board and executive leadership OSH training. It is rare for executives to leave this course with the same mindset they arrive with.
Without senior leadership living their OSH values, high OSH standards cannot be achieved, and training will be ineffective.