How to optimize the way we do safety trainings ?
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
Needless to say that our working environment has undergone massive changes. The standard population we see these days at a construction site is no longer a homogenous one. You may expect on-site staff coming from all over the place on this blue planet with the aim to work together. They come from different backgrounds, from different cultures, their norms and values are different, they speak different languages. And all of this happens under the daily constraints of a challenging life at a construction site. Having said that, it is clear that the need to optimize efficiency of the construction process is higher than ever. And for me this means that there is a significant demand out there to find and work with high-skilled, well trained professionals who are competent enough to be able to work in accordance with all guidelines of safe conduct. I outline below the pre-requisites which are deemed to help optimize safety trainings in such a way that participants come to the job place with knowledge, skills and expertise that will make them employees, colleagues and team members for whom safety is priority number one.
Following my rather general introductory words, let me reiterate that there is great diversity on our sites. In reality, at any point in time you encounter people coming from diverse cultural backgrounds speaking a number of languages and despite these remarkable differences they need to start working together immediately. There is no time to adapt, work should have started already and there is no time left to adjust to the diverse environment. The company expects this diverse on-site population to start now, blend-in well, adapt quickly and be fully prepared to work in a safe manner, i.e. have completed their indispensable safety training. In other words, people arriving on site are expected to be ready to start and to need no time to learn, all that they are expected to need at the point of arrival is an access badge and then they need to be ready.
So, how to make all this happen, how to get people ready and obtain a good result at a safe work place? Personally, I find prior preparatory training a magnificent tool. An online platform making it possible for people to get ready and train beforehand is a fundamental tool which helps save time, increase efficacy and boost confidence of both current employees as well as newcomers who perform better knowing that they come in prepared. Such online tool is available at any point in time, people can find what they are looking for at any time, work at their own pace and concentrate on what they feel they miss most and need most for the upcoming job. The tool guides them through the intricacies of the ever-changing safety environment and allows them to benefit from the abundance of safety training videos accompanied with additional materials including questionnaires allowing students to evaluate their level of knowledge. Again, just like coming on site feeling to be well-prepared for the job at hand helps people feel more confident, seeing results of work they do online is an invaluable means to raise people's motivation.
The training session is split up into specific chapters, each devoted to a distinct safety item. Videos form part of the chapters to give variety of learning materials and also to bring in a focus on hands-on performance. At the end of the online training students receive and may print out a certificate showing which course they completed. In other words, students who follow a program receive a proof of participation and completion of the course. Programs are designed to be easy to follow at one's pace, at one's preferable schedule and, most importantly, safety rules and regulations are shown and explained in a way which accommodates the specificities of broad variety of audience with differing background and level of knowledge and experience. The 24/7 availability of the training session suits all segments of work force with differing time schedules and differing needs for flexibility.
Yet, I do see this as only a ‘warm-up session’, this tool is available to enable students to have access to the follow-up hands-on site-specific introductory training course upon arrival. Having already completed the online course, students can concentrate on more practical issues and their onsite trainer can leave the theoretical foundation behind. I find it instrumental to start with role play situations allowing to apply the lessons-learnt from the online training and follow up with a more tool-kit focused practical training session to introduce basics of use of tools such as a grinder. In my opinion, the best way to optimize and streamline your safety training arrangements is to split up the learning process into a prior to arrival on site part and an on-site part. The two complement each other and there are fundamental rules to be observed if you want to structure it well and make sure that there are no gaps and no overlaps. Once you broaden and refresh the knowledge of students prior to their arrival on site you are immediately able to upgrade the follow-up practical course to a level that saves time of all involved and, most importantly, leaves a much more pronounced mark in the students' memory. They are learning by doing after they learned independently with the help of the platform. This approach empowers students and gives them not only the knowledge they need but also the confidence and motivation to study on an ongoing basis which is, after-all, the ultimate goal of any safety-conscious employer. People progress faster, training is delivered at higher and more refined quality standard and people completing the course join their colleagues at the construction site much better prepared and much more motivated to work better and learn more.
But this is not the only way to enhance safety trainings. As I said earlier, there are multiple nationalities present at a construction site and there are many languages spoken. It is vital to make sure that the message you want to send out to staff does in fact come across. It is absolutely necessary to deliver training to your audience in a language that they understand. Moreover, I find it also important to take account of cultural differences encountered among the workforce population. A group of Polish speakers will most likely require a different training approach than a team of workers from the South of France. There will be more at play than the language only. The vibe in the class room will be different, just like the expectations of the students will be different. It is important to note that every audience appreciates a different style, different teaching method, different approach. Translation itself is a good step but not an ultimate one. Having a feel for the culture, habits and background is equally important.
This is why I am a big advocate of getting all training packages translated and of bringing in native speakers as trainers. The efficiency of the training goes up and the message gets across better. This approach also enables you to train a broader target group. I advise caution here, not every non-native speaker of the English language can be assigned into a safety training session delivered in English.
But there is more. There is even a special action you can take as a trainer to get a catalytic result. Self-training. This is a teaching method allowing students to train to become trainers themselves. Just the mere fact of being told and knowing that one would become a trainer after the completion of the training works like magic. Train-the-trainers programs help raise awareness and this so very needed interaction brings dramatic results. No need to say that the atmosphere in the class room changes. I let you guess what then the outcome is for such a student. An in-between solution here is to pick students out of the class room and let them explain to their colleagues what the content of the training is.
Still, there is one more absolutely vital element here as an absolute must to succeed to optimize your safety training. The trainers. They are the backbone and it is them who have the key to the optimal training strategy. The common mistake and tendency here is that people pick trainers based on their craft experience, based on their level of expertise, their experience in field practice. Whenever I hear that this approach was adopted I get a bit concerned. I do understand where this is coming from of course. Having a person with loads of experience stand in front of the class room can only be a benefit to all. But let us not forget the point of the exercise. The aim is training. We want people to learn. The ability to teach and train people is a craft itself. It cannot be replaced by site experience. It is a specific competency. An extra skill if you like. And if you find that special one who excels in both areas of expertise, congratulations. If you cannot find that precious combination in one person, please note that training abilities take priority over craft experience. Training delivery is a competency, a highly qualified skill. And above all, there is a specific element that distinguishes a safety trainer from another trainer. A safety trainer gives lessons with a safety driven aim in mind. It is not just training people or giving instructions and getting the message across, there is that one extra part where you, deep down, want people to be safe and work in a safe manner. And is not that just the purpose we are all after ?