Boost your H&S training effectiveness

Mar 04, 2014

Boost Your H&S training effectivenessResults gleaned from a recent Institute for Work & Health study provides valuable insight to make your health and safety training program more effective. Led by IWH senior scientist Ben Amick, the study compared different ways of delivering ergonomics training. Among the findings: in-person and online training were almost equally effective, and both were more effective if follow-up occurred afterward.

To better understand how workplaces could put these findings to work for them, WSPS Network News spoke with Dana Greenly, a WSPS ergonomist who observed and assessed a number of study participants before and after the training (for more, see "About the study").

  1. Explore your options. Many workplaces already use some form of blended learning - in-person (public or in-house), e-learning, and self-study. This study shows that one isn't necessarily better than the other. "If online training would enhance your training program," says Greenly, "then be reassured that it is meaningful."
  2. Build follow-up into the process. "If you really want people to apply what they've learned, you have to follow up. It could be as simple as asking, 'What will you do differently?'" The intent is to promote what IWH's Ben Amick describes as self-efficacy: "the competence a worker has to manage their workspace. It’s different from knowledge and skills. It's what happens when you take knowledge and skills and apply them."
  3. Sell your workers on the training. "Workers need motivation to apply what they've learned, and the best way to motivate them is to help them understand the benefits," says Greenly. Don't wait until after the training. Start before it begins. Be clear about how workers will benefit and what you expect them to do as a result.
  4. Sell your supervisors on the training. The IWH study shows that supervisors play a critical role in generating benefits from the training. Explain how the training will benefit workers, themselves and the organization. At its most basic: a safer, healthier and more productive workforce.
  5. Help supervisors understand their role. Self-efficacy is important for supervisors too. The earlier you involve them, the more they can contribute. "The more you involve supervisors, the better prepared they are to help workers make changes."
  6. Coach supervisors on their broader role in supporting a health and safety culture. "If you have a good supervisor, people are going to report hazards or concerns early." Give supervisors incentives and tools to act. Start with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities under the Internal Responsibility System.
  7. Be prepared to make changes. "If you offer training but are not prepared to make changes as a result of it, what do you expect to accomplish? What message does this send to your workers?"
  8. Create a process to support changes that may result from the training. Many changes can be made at no cost. But for others, some cost may be involved. "Figure out beforehand where that money will come from and how people can access it," says Greenly.

About the study

Amick's team, including WSPS ergonomist Dana Greenly, recruited 400+ office workers at five multi-site education, municipal and utility organizations. Workers participated in one of five types of training:

  • in-person
  • online
  • in-person + enhanced training
  • online + enhanced training
  • none of these. Instead, this group received a link to an ergonomics information page on the Ministry of Labour website.

The classroom and online training covered the same content and took about 90 minutes to complete. However, online learners could go through their modules whenever they wanted during a two-week window. The enhanced component consisted of three 30-minute follow-up sessions provided three months later, and a 60-minute session for supervisors and managers on supporting a healthy computing culture, and the importance of role modelling and building their own self-efficacy.

How we can help

  1. Check out WSPS's extensive list of in-person and online training.
  2. Talk to a consultant about maximizing training effectiveness.
  3. Attend related sessions at Partners in Prevention 2014 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show in Mississauga:
    • Assessing OHSE Training Needs and Options (2-day PDC)
    • Influencing Safety for All Generations: How to Get Total Buy-in from Everyone
    • Using Hands-on Exercises in Your Training Programs to Increase Skin Hazard Awareness
    • free one-hour e-courses available at the CCOHS e-learning room. One course per person.
  4. Watch for more on the online office ergonomics training program, to be made available through health and safety associations, in an upcoming issue of WSPS Network News.
  5. Read 11 tips for maximizing training, a strategic approach that starts with assessing training needs.