In-company Safety Training: RoSPA Article from Safety Specifier magazine

By Roger Bibbings, Occupational Safety Adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)

An in-company safety training session.

The need for health and safety training within organisations is an issue close to the heart of RoSPA.

It is one of a number of “key ingredients” that the Society believes need to be put in place to help improve injury prevention and health within organisations both large and small.

Although in Britain we enjoy some of the safest working conditions in the world, current figures show there is still major scope for improvement, particularly to cut work related ill-health and to promote employee well-being.

In 2005/06, for example, 212 employees and self-employed people suffered notifiable fatal injuries at work and 384 members of the public were killed in occupational settings. These figures excluded between 900 and 1,000 people who lost their lives in work-related road accidents.

Some 39 million working days are lost due to accidents and work-related ill health each year, costing employers up to £7.9 billion and leaving the nation with a total bill of more than £20 billion.

To help reduce suffering and the cost to the nation as a whole, RoSPA is focusing on a number of “key issues”. These include getting occupational road risk accepted as a mainstream health and safety issue, securing a renewed focus on improvements to accident investigation, reinforcing the case for better senior leadership of health and safety by encouraging businesses to "go public on performance", and encouraging employers to adopt a “24-7” approach to safety.

Health and safety training is a key input, ensuring not just that everyone understands the need for safe and healthy working but making sure that each member of the team has the safety knowledge and skills necessary to enable them to play their part effectively.

Unfortunately, there is still a major health and safety training shortfall and RoSPA wants to initiate a major debate to identify options for encouraging the uptake of such training within organisations.

Training obviously costs money.

For small businesses, especially when the cost of training is weighed up alongside resources required for other pressing needs and regulatory requirements, it might be considered a cost too far.

But solutions are available for organisations that want their staff to receive training but are tightly constrained by limited budgets and “time poverty”.

Many providers of occupational health and safety courses now offer “in-company” services, which could encourage the uptake of training in such organisations.

In-company options are particularly cost-effective for organisations wanting a number of employees to undergo the same training. Where appropriate, some organisations might also consider sharing the cost of training with other local employers.

Another key benefit of in-company training is that it can be tailored to meet the unique needs of individual organisations. Providers are generally happy to discuss particular requirements.

Whether covering specific on-site issues such as traffic management, manual handling or hazard spotting or looking at occupational health and safety more generally, such a bespoke approach can greatly enhance the training employees receive and its application after the trainers have gone.

The incorporation of real life scenarios and on-the-spot risk assessments can add particularly to the perceived relevance of training and encourage workforce ownership and commitment to safer working practices. This is crucial because no business manager can achieve a safe and healthy working environment on their own.

A natural progression from in-company courses delivered by external trainers might be the delivery of courses designed to train particular members of staff to become trainers in their own right. Equipping some employees with the skills to instruct others in sound manual handling techniques is a good example of how this can work.

As is the case with in-company training generally, such an approach can reduce an organisation’s overall training bill and gives employers a resource that is always at their disposal.

Before deciding which kind of training to put your staff through, it is important to first conduct a training needs analysis to identify the skills gaps that need to be filled. This can be done internally or by a consultant, and staff and their representatives should be involved in the process. Risk assessments need to be reviewed regularly to identify any special training needs, and gaps in training that are identified during accident and incident investigations need to be taken into account. Training needs should also be on the agenda during one-to-one staff performance appraisals.

Once needs are clarified and prioritised, you can look for a supplier who can meet them. Besides considering the training delivery method which suits you best, you will want to develop quality, value-for-money and effectiveness criteria to help you make your choice of training provider. Much information is available on the internet and in the specialist health and safety press. Contacting others who have used particular trainers can also be useful.

Questions you should consider asking potential suppliers include: Are they a specialist in health and safety? Do they use trainers with recognised qualifications (such as CMIOSH or C&G)? Do they have other clients in the same sector? Can they deliver additional and back-up services? Are they well-established? What is included in the course syllabus and price?

If you do choose to go for in-company health and safety training, remember to share your experience with other organisations in your area or sector. Sharing health and safety successes will spur others to action and could contribute to a further reduction in occupational deaths and injuries.

Click here for more information on RoSPA’s in-company training solutions, email or telephone +44 (0)121 248 2233.

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