Why Safety Training For All Is So Important
A hazard is that which has the potential to cause harm to the safety, security or health or a person or to cause damage to the environment or loss of property. If that is so, then undoubtedly the most potentially dangerous hazard in any workplace is the human being. Whether it be due to their acts or omissions (or simple sheer stupidity), the vast majority of incidents in the workplace are caused not by machinery or hazardous chemicals or any other ‘inanimate’ hazard but by people. Any incident management study will attest to that fact. That is why the safety training of all employees is critically important.
However, it should be noted that the emphasis should be on the word ‘all’ with regard to employees requiring safety training. Of course, the safety-related training required of an overhead cabin crane operator or a commercial pilot will be significantly greater and more complex than that required of the lady in accounts or the man working in marketing. However, to assume that those working in accounts or marketing should somehow be exempt from safety training is an error. This point must be made as too often the focus with regard to safety training is on those employees who work in traditionally ‘hazardous’ locations or with hazardous machinery. OSHA itself insists that employers provide training for all employees with regard to health and safety aspects of their work.
An important reason why all employees should receive basic safety training is, quite simply, to make them all safer employees. A workplace with safety-savvy employees will be a workplace in which employees will be better equipped to identify and react to safety-related incidents and non-conformances. And never should there be assumptions that all people have a ‘basic understanding’ of safety issues. As any safety instructor will tell you, when it comes to safety training, never assume anything as a ‘given’. What any safety professional will take as ‘common knowledge’ or even ‘common sense’ might as well be Swahili for some employees. That same instructor will share anecdotes about how some people don’t even understand the very basics of electrical safety or how to proceed in the event of an emergency, never mind how to operate a fire extinguisher in the event of a fire.
Another important reason why basic safety awareness training should be provided to all employees is to engender buy-in by all. The buy-in here is that of the company’s safety management system. If all employees understand safety hazards and risks and understand their own roles within the company’s safety goals, procedures and standards, then they will be far more likely to adhere to them. As importantly, employees will respect safety initiatives for what they do, i.e. protect all employees from potential harm. Understanding safety will also make them better custodians of the safety management system. That’s a win all around for the company.
The lady in accounts must understand fully well what prohibition safety signs denote and how those signs relate to safety hazards, just as the man in marketing must fully know how to operate the nearest fire extinguisher in the event of a fire. And, let it be known: cursory references in passing to ‘corporate safety standards’ during employees’ inductions do not constitute adequate safety awareness training. After all, who pays attention at an internal induction? Ultimately, safety awareness training may only need to cover the basics, but it should never be too basic.