Stop Training In Safety

If they don’t believe in safety in the first place, then all of the safety training in the world isn’t going to help.

stop training in safety with kevin burns safety speaker consultant

Challenges with workplace incidents can be traced right back to Day 1 - safety training. Training is the basics that workers need to do the job today. There is no personalization or customization of the training based on either aptitude, attitude or comprehension. Basically, people are trained in safety on a schedule, and it is expected that they will all “get” it at the same time. Training’s fatal flaw is an assumption that everyone starts from the same place.

Training involves formalized curriculum and structured learning. It is a fixed course length (anywhere from a morning to five days - in a classroom) and a specified outcome. And it’s dry and boring - because the practical, experiential application of the knowledge is absent until the knowledge is acquired. All that is required from the worker is to pay enough attention to get to the end of it.

Training Doesn't Keep Workers Safe

Truthfully, it’s not the safety training that will keep workers safe. It’s the practical retention and use of the information provided that will keep them safe. In other words, it’s the pre-existing attitudes towards safety that will determine the difference between a great safety performer and a walking fatality waiting to happen.

A class of gung-ho safety enthusiasts who attended the training with rapt attention would be the kinds of people you could trust to be watching their co-workers’ backs. But safety supervisors don’t share their faith in workers. Supervisors feel that if they don’t keep on top of their employees in safety, the moment they turn their backs, an incident is going to happen. That is not a rousing endorsement for the training program.

Go Beyond Training 

Training cannot become an ingrained attitude when you set a maximum number of hours to it. In order to get good buy-in, safety needs to become an ongoing program and reinforced everyday - not just through reminders and tailgate meetings but through the improvement of technical and personal skills. You don’t need a training program at all. You need a safety development strategy - something that builds on pre-existing attitudes, beliefs and instincts.

Development is experience-based, ongoing, continuous improvement: the skills that will allow them to do a variety of things in the future.

Competence Is Too Close To Incompetence

Competence is just a degree ahead of the line that separates it from incompetence. Training to competence is hardly a rousing endorsement of how well one could have been trained or to the level to which they could have bought-in to safety as a lifestyle choice - far ahead of simple compliance to rules and procedures. Training is a process of learning a sequence of programmed behaviors which only ensures that workers are equipped to do today’s job. Development, however, prepares people for the next level - whatever the future holds.

Development builds on top of existing strengths and fills in and overcomes deficiencies. While training may have a fixed term, a fixed start and stop date, development does not. Development is an ongoing process of mentoring, management and coaching combined with ongoing communication, instruction and relevant feedback based on aptitude and attitude.

The 3 Assumptions Of Development

There are three basic assumptions in development that:

  • The subject wants to get better because they have demonstrated their willingness to improve
  • The subject is treated as a partner instead of a student
  • Development has no end - it can continue for a lifetime or until the subject walks away from it

Development not only improves job performance, but it also grows the individual based on the philosophy that better people do better work and get better results.

Development Is Personal

Simply put, training is focused on the task - development is focused on the individual.

If you want your people to stop making stupid mental mistakes, then assess their mental capacity for safety before you hire them. Stop depending on your safety training to fix their deficiencies. If they don’t believe in safety in the first place, then all of the safety training in the world isn’t going to help a whole bunch. Development continues where training leaves off. If you want to reduce your attrition, turnover and incident rates, stop training in safety and start developing in safety.

Consider viewing your next safety meeting in a different light - personal safety leadership development instead of simple compliance meetings.

Ready to change your safety marketing strategy? Move from enforcing compliance to building safety partnerships by improving your communication:

7 Nuts n Bolts Strategies for Safety Communications

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Topics: safety, leadership, safety buy-in, safety manager, safety training