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Gettingmorefromyourhealthandsafety

training
ByIanPemberton
Doyouwishyoucouldgetmoreonthejobimplementationofskillsfromyourhealthandsafetytraining?
Youspendalotoftimeandresourcesdevelopinganddeliveringhealthandsafetytraining.Iftraineesdontput
intopracticeonthejobwhattheyhavebeentaughtthenwhatisthepointofallthiseffort?
Inmy25yearsofexperienceofworkingasanergonomisthelpingemployerstodesignanddeliverhealthand
safetytraining,everysafetyspecialistthatIveevermetisalwaysseekingwaysofgettingmoreonthe
jobimplementationofrequiredskills.Thiswishisuniversalitsjustamatterofdegree.Somesaythat
theyveachievedsuccessbutwantmore.Morecommonly,theysaythatthereisstillalongwaytogo.
WhenIaskifemployeesarewillingparticipantsinhealthandsafetytrainingIoftengetanironiclaugh.Look,
letsbehonest,thegeneralperceptionofhealthandsafetytrainingisthatitsboring;wheretraineesrespondwith
apathyorevenhostility;andlinemanagersareoftennotinvolvedandnotsupportive.
Doweseriouslybelievethattheexistingformatofmosthealthandsafetytrainingisactuallydelivering
improvedonthejobperformance?
Iproposethatthiswidespreadrejectionofhealthandsafetytrainingbytheverypeoplewearetryingtohelpis
causedbyanumberoffundamentaldesignflawsinourapproach.Thesedesignflawsvirtuallyguaranteethat
therewillbelittleornoimplementationonthejobofskillstaughtourbasicapproachisoftendoomedto
failurebeforeweevenstart.Thesedesignflawsnotonlyexplaintheapathyorhostilityoflinemanagersand
traineesitexplainswhytheirreactionisactuallycompletelyrational.
Ifwearetotransformhealthtrainingintoakeydriverofjobskillscompetencyweneednewevidencebased
approaches.
Doweneedtoabolishhealthandsafetytrainingifwewanttomakeitrelevantandpractical?
IrealisetheabovequestionmaysoundprettyoutrageousbutthesituationisthistoovercomethedesignflawsI
havereferredtoleadstoonelogicalconclusiontofixthemIbelieveweneedtoabolish,ifnotall,thenafairbit
ofhealthandsafetytrainingasitistypicallyconfiguredandreplaceitwithsomethingverydifferent.
Takelookatthisdiagram:

http://www.shponline.co.uk/getting-health-safety-training/

Yourultimategoalistodevelopcompetentemployees,competencebeingamixofsuitableknowledge,skillsand
experiencethecompetencetriangleasshownabove.Knowledge(AKAawarenessraising,education,e
Learning)isthetheorytheknowhow.Skill(AKAtraining,coaching)isthepracticalbitthehandson
applicationoftheknowhow.Knowledgeandskillsarejoinedatthehipyoucantdountilyouknowhow.
Henceyouneedboth.But,itisimportantnottoconfusethem.Justbecauseyouknowhow,doesnotmeanyou
cando,indeedtheseelementsinvolveverydifferentlearningstrategies.
Inmyexperiencetheknowledgeandskillselementsofthecompetencetriangleinthehealthandsafetyworldare
routinelyconfused.Alotofwhatpassesashealthandsafetytrainingisinfactexclusivelyhealthandsafety
educationorawarenessraisingcoursesthatgonofurtherthanpresentingtheoreticalknowhow.Forexample,
anycoursetakenonaneLearningsystem,nowanextremelypopulartool,isoftenthesolemeansofproviding
trainingbutisinfacteducationnottraining.
ThisisnotacriticismofeLearningitsaverypowerfultoolwhichisoftenanessentialpartofalearning
system.But,itisimportanttounderstandthatcompletinganeLearningcourseisjustonepartofthesystemits
onlythefirststeptowardsdevelopingandimplementingaskilledbehaviouronthejob.
Experienceincludesameasureofhowmanytimesandinwhatrangeofsituationsyouhaveappliedyourskills
andknowledge.
Apartfromthisconfusionwhereeducationisassumedtobeallthatsrequiredthemainproblemisthatthe
skillselementofthislearningtriangleusuallyhaslittlechanceofchangingbehaviourintheworkplacelets
takeatlookatwhy.
Thecontentofskillbasedtrainingisoftendefective
Akeyfindingofadultlearningresearchisthatemployeeswhobelievethattheireducationortrainingwillbe
usefultothemintheirjoborcareerarefarmorelikelytobemotivatedtolearnand,crucially,applywhatthey
havelearntintheworkplace.(e.g.Clarkeetal.1993,Axtelletal.1997).Inotherwordsisthisstuffgoingtobe
anyusetomewhenIgetbacktowork?.Thisfocusbyadultsonthepracticalusefulnessduringlearningisa
centralandragogyprincipletheartandscienceofteachingadultstolearn.
However,inmyexperience,inhealthandsafetytrainingsessionstoomuchtimeistakenupbyknowledgebased
theorythatisoftenofonlybackgroundrelevance.Wedothedeathstuffaboutpoliciesandlegalresponsibilities
andthelikehowdoesthishelpthemimprovetheironthejobperformance?Then,whenthecoursedoesget
aroundtotheskillsbasedletshaveagostuff,itsinaclassroomthatdoesnotrelatetotheirworkplace.Ina
recentarticleintheSafety&HealthPractitioneranexperiencedmanualhandlingtrainereloquentlyillustrated
thepointsIammakinghereitswellwortharead(Tudor2014).

http://www.shponline.co.uk/getting-health-safety-training/

Whentheygetbackonthejobverylittleofthisisofanyusetothem.Itslikewhatwearegivingthemisa
squarepegandthatdoesntthenfitaroundholewhentheygetbackonthejob.Linemanagersandtraineesknow
thisthroughbitterexperience.Theyshowupkeentoworkandforthetrainingtobeeffective,butweareburying
themunderamountainoftheorythatisnothelpingthemtodotheirjob.Theyseehealthandsafetytrainingasa
theoreticalexercisenotrelevanttotheirdailywork.Tothem,wearejustanirritatingwasteoftheirtime,andthis
isanentirelyrationaljudgementbecauseoftenweare!
Ifwhatwegivethemisnotclearlylinkedtoshowingthemhowtodotheirjobsafely,andnotinsomegeneral
way,Imeanblowbyblowthisishowyouperformyourrolesafely,thensurelyweshouldnotbesurprisedby
theirapathy,evenhostility?Thisisonereasonwhylinemanagersandtraineesarealienatedbyhealthandsafety
training.
So,howdowefixthis?Inmyopinionweneedtotalklessabouthealthandsafetyandfocusmoreonwhatthe
traineeneedstodotoworksafely.Thisisnotaminorpoint.Itmeansbinningourcurrentapproachandtakinga
newdirectionitsa180degreechangeofdirection.Itisbydefinitionbasedinandoneachtraineesworkplace.
Insteadofdeliveringtrainingfromthepointofviewofthetechnicalinformation,weturnitonitsheadand
approachitfromthepointofviewofthetraineesjob,incorporatingthetechnicalinformationwhereappropriate.
Takemanualhandlingtrainingasoneexample.Withthisapproachtherewouldnolongerbeonestandardmanual
handlingcoursebutratheraspecifictrainingcourseforeachpositionorroleintheorganisation,intowhichwe
incorporatethenecessarymanualhandlingprinciples.Suchtrainingwillalsocoveranyotherrelevanthealthand
safetyprinciplessoastoprovideasinglemultifacetedcoursethatsaystotraineeshereisyourjobandthisis
howyoudoitsafelyandeffectively.
Crucially,inthisapproachthetrainingcontentmustbebasedonwhatactuallyhappensinthetraineesworkplace
andnotsometheoreticalsetupinatrainingroom.Wehavetoextendourtrainingintotheworkplaceandfind
solutionstothemessyrealworldconstraintsfacedbyeachtraineeineachjobperformed.
Thisnewapproachmeanstherewillbeabigincreaseinthevolumeoftrainingcoursesbecauseyouneeda
courseforeachjoborroleinyourorganisation.Ifyouliketheresgoingtobehundredsorthousandsoftraining
pegseachfittingintoitsrelevantjobrole.Itsgoingtobealibraryofthisishowyoudoyourjobsafelycourses.
Howelsecanwetrainemployeestodotheirjobssafelyifthecourseisnotspecificallyabouttheirjobasitis
carriedoutintheirworkplace?Thisfragmentationoftrainingisachallenge.But,beforeyoufilethisideaunder
TooDifficultinyourwastepaperbinpleasebearwithme.Mostofwhatyouneedisalreadyinplace,itjust
needstherightsupport.
Anoteontheknowledgeelementofthecompetencetriangle
Ivetalkedmostlyabouttheskillscornerofthetriangle,butasweveseenthereisneedforimprovementinthe
knowledgecornertomakeitmorerelevantaswell.AsIhavesaid,theoryisessentialbutitsaquestionof
contentandbalance.
Takeasanexamplelearningtodrive.Inadditiontolearninghowtooperatethecontrolsofthecar(skills)you
alsolearntheory,suchasthehighwaycode(knowledge).Learningthehighwaycodedoesnotspecificallytell
youhowtooperatethecar,butitishelpfulwhendecidingwhichbehaviourtousefromtherepertoireofskills
learnt.
Itis,however,allaquestionofbalance.Thetheorythatyouprovide,justlikethehighwaycode,needstobe
useful.Usefultheorymeansthatithassomeoperationalrelevancetothejobspecificbehaviourweareseeking.
Summary

http://www.shponline.co.uk/getting-health-safety-training/

Thereisalotofconfusioninthehealthandsafetyworldastotheroleofthedifferentcornersofthecompetence
triangle.Thereisoftenaworkingassumptionthattheoreticaleducationissufficienttodevelopaskilledbehavior
itisnotitisjustthefirststep.
Thecontentofboththetheoryandskillelementsisoftenirrelevanttotherealitiesfacedbythetraineeswhen
theyreturntowork.
Ifyouwanttogetmoreonthejobimplementationofrequiredskillsyouneedtoprovideboththeoreticalknow
howaswellasskillsdevelopmentsupport.
Thecontentofbothneedstobespecifictoeachtraineesjobsoastoprovidethisishowyoudoyourjobsafely
support.Theskillsdevelopmentelementneedstobebasedonandintheworkplace,and,isagradualprocessnot
aoneoffevent.
IanPembertonisacharteredergonomistwhohasaspecificinterestinthepsychologyofadultlearning.He
helpsimplementssolutionsforjobskillsdevelopmentandemployeecompetencyfromahealthandsafety
perspective.IanisManagingDirectorofHumanFocus.

References
AxtellC.etal.(1997)PredictingImmediateandLongerTermTransferofTraining,PersonnelReview,Vol.26,
No.3,pp.201213
TudorS.(2014)Healthcare:whypeoplehandlingtrainingisnotrelevant,Safety&HealthPractitioner
ClarkC.etal.(1993)ExploratoryFieldStudyofTrainingMotivation:InfluencesofInvolvement,Credibility
andTransferClimate,GroupandOrganisationManagement,Vol.18,No.3,pp.292307

http://www.shponline.co.uk/getting-health-safety-training/