HR Leads Business

Feb 15, 2021 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer

Trends in Employee Safety Training

Employee health and safety is at the forefront of the new administration’s agenda. As one of his first executive orders, President Joe Biden directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to begin developing COVID-19 emergency temporary standards for employers. But that isn’t the only trend in employee safety training affected by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 just accelerated concerns that would have been a driving force within the industry's approach to training in general and safety training in particular,” says Dan Nicholls, SPHR, Senior Director of Environment, Health and Safety at Altium Packaging. Trends in safety training include better integration of training into performance goals, incorporating current concerns into training modules, and optimizing safety training for digital delivery. 

Here’s how to leverage recent trends in employee safety training to educate and protect your workforce.

Think Beyond Compliance

Training is an essential component of legal compliance, but compliance shouldn’t be your only goal. “One of the No. 1 reasons we see for employee turnover is frustration over not understanding how to do the work,” Nicholls says. “Try to come up with solutions to better train employees to do their job, and a piece of that is to do it safely.” Set safety training within the context of overall job performance.

Commit to adaptive safety training, says Taylor Bradley, SPHR, a former paramedic and current Senior HR Business Partner at Squarespace. “Identify that basic level of proficiency that your workforce has, and continuously add stretch goals to that to bring that proficiency up,” he says. Start with the minimum needed for legal compliance as your baseline. Incorporate training modules to continuously increase proficiencies, improve well-being, and create a resilient and adaptable workforce capable of responding to crises.

Address New Circumstances

Mental health is an important safety concern that’s recently gained more traction. For instance, stress is classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an occupational hazard in some health care settings. And the U.S. Department of Labor provides guidance for supporting mental health in the workplace

When companies first responded to COVID-19 in early 2020, an initial reaction was to ask employees about their health or how they were doing. But doing so gets into complicated legal territory. “We want to make sure that training we do for managers keeps in mind compliance and confidentiality of the employees,” Bradley says. Now, best practices in employee safety training dictate that HR teams respond by equipping employees with tools and resources to monitor their own mental health.

Cybersecurity also has real-world implications for health and wellness, so be sure to incorporate training around protecting sensitive information. And as organizations return to in-office operations, don’t forget to conduct active-shooter or fire drills to bring those safety proficiencies back up.

Leverage Digital Learning Tools

The disruption from the pandemic offers an opportunity to revamp safety training courses and incorporate more digital tools. Learning management systems are beneficial for tracking completion and compliance, but there are other tools you should be looking at, too.

There’s an expectation from younger workers that they can access training modules through their smartphones or tablets. Mobile delivery also empowers employees who don’t work at a computer (factory-floor workers, for instance) to access and complete training modules while at work, Nicholls points out. 

Leverage virtual training tools, too. Even training on equipment can be conducted virtually through tools like the HoloLens 2, Nicholls says, allowing trainers to demonstrate equipment use in real-time.

Learn more about employee safety training.