The Safety and Health at Work Act 2005 (SHaW Act) places general duties on all occupiers and/or employers to ensure safe places of work, safe systems of work and safe co-workers. One of the best ways to achieve these statutory requirements is through occupational safety and health (OSH) “training”, as the act also requires ‘the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of employees’.
A trained workforce is crucial. Too many accidents and near misses are occasioned by a failure to adequately empower workers through the provision of instruction and training, via the delivery by competent providers. To encourage the development of a positive safety and health culture, training and educating is paramount.
One of the major issues in many companies is the neglect of structured training programmes. The training budget, where one exists, is the first to be cut when there is a downturn. Ultimately this lack of priority where training is concerned will cost the company much more than it has ‘saved’. This can be exemplified by the observation that so often workers seek ‘sick leave’ (injury leave) or spend monies with the physiotherapists for back and shoulder injuries which more often than not can be traced to poor manual handling practices at work. This situation can often be addressed through appropriate training in kinetic lifting, coupled with adequate supervision thereafter.
Training is critical to ensure a safe workforce, as well as to engender high staff morale, foster increases productivity and facilitate effective work flow. Furthermore, depending on the type of industry, trained worker can lead to increased customer satisfaction and an expanded client base. Additional benefits of training include the reduction of accidents with their associated injuries, asset damage and insurance costs, as well as the development of a pool of competent workers on which to draw – thus allowing for future in-house support and OSH promotion.
Of note, is that training of employees and the reinforcement of such training does not have to be expensive. Having completed a well-organized structured programme, this can be supported by the implementation of such initiatives as weekly 5-minute toolbox talks on various topics, placing of rotation posters as visual reminders, and passing on information via notice-boards, internal email and company newsletters to ensure that the information reaches all staff.
Training should not be viewed as an option but as compulsory. Every employee should be mandated to attend a minimal number of well-organised annual training sessions, in order to ensure his/her competence and safety. Training should be afforded the same emphasis as quality control, customer satisfaction and human resources management. Employers need to view training not as a bothersome expense but as a long-term investment, in the same manner as they do the purchasing of capital equipment and other fixed assets. In the words of one writer “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance!”