Workplace health and safety is a major aspect of many businesses in Australia. For those in particularly dangerous industries, such as construction or manufacturing, or with a number of manual labour workers on the payroll, keeping on top of health and safety training is pivotal to protecting the wellbeing of workers, but also against potentially costly crises.
Take, for example, the cost of doing nothing to replace or repair a piece of faulty equipment at a workplace. Yes, the repair fee may be $800, but if you do nothing and a worker is eventually injured or worse, this could end up costing the business more like $800,000 – not including the emotional harm to the worker or their family.
Properly training employees to understand how to recognise and manage hazards, as well as develop innovative solutions to mitigate them, is one of the best ways to prevent against a health and safety crisis such as this.
"You need a theoretical knowledge to support your reasoning, but the practical application is what you are always looking for."
However, with an abundance of WHS training providers offering different qualifications and different education formats, what do you need to know to make sure your workers' education results in a reasonable return on your investment?
Online and offline training have different benefits
A popular choice for many corporates is online training. It is generally far cheaper, especially when you take into account how it can be completed in the employees' downtime. This is great in the sense that these courses can be done anywhere and at anytime – namely outside of billed hours – but there is no guarantee that the education will stick. When courses are taught in a read-this-and-write-something fashion, the practical learning is far more difficult to grasp, making the training essentially less valuable.
On the other side of the fence, in-house training is largely deemed as the most effective as it can be optimised for the organisation's unique health and safety landscapes. However, often this is not viable in many situations due to costs and logistics. But with something as hands on as WHS, experienced trainer Ken Golden knows that ensuring a practical approach is absolutely necessary to delivering something that will benefit employers.
"I think it's probably the most important part," says Ken. "You need a theoretical knowledge to support your reasoning, but the practical application is what you are always looking for from training."
Face-to-face learning key to a practical understanding
As a skilled WHS trainer and facilitator, Ken believes that the face-to-face classroom environment is far more conducive to this than an online learning environment. However, a blended approach may provide the best of both styles.
The primary advantage for employers is that it ensures trainees get the learning they need but without taking up to much of their work time.
"You can save time and potentially might save some money because you are not losing the worker from the workplace for two or three weeks, you're just losing them for maybe five days."
According to Ken, this still allows the training to be adapted to each trainee's style of learning, fostering a far deeper appreciation and understanding of the essential principles of WHS.
For instance, the Diploma of Work Health and Safety provided by Line Management used this approach to get all trainees up to speed before they step into the classroom. With the theoretical pre-training out of the way, this enables the facilitator to focus on building on this knowledge rather than just delivering it, and also allows the trainees to walk out on day five with a diploma in their hand.
"It's not just one person reading and interpreting something alone."
Why a skilled facilitator is so important
While blended training is a fantastic way to balance the costs and the benefits of WHS training, Ken exclaims that it does not guarantee effective learning – this, ultimately, is the job of the facilitator.
"If blended training is conducted, it needs to be thought through carefully as to which parts goes online and which are taught," he says. "You need to know what you are aiming to get out of it."
"As the facilitator, you compose the situation, you can hold a discussion, you can get multiple points of view. It's not just one person reading and interpreting something alone."
A face-to-face or blended approach is the basis of practical learning as it ensures that each trainee gets an individualised service while learning from the experience of others. With multiple people coming from multiple disciplines and backgrounds, it makes it far easier to explore concepts and scenarios in different ways and to delve into the depth of practical WHS application.
"It gives everybody the opportunity to think wider," says Ken. "It ensures the transfer of knowledge, otherwise you are just getting people to memorise and regurgitate information – where is the learning in that?"
Making sure the real learning happens after training
Many times after a worker has been sent away for WHS training, on return, there is no real attempt to apply the education to improve the organisation. In all of his courses, Ken ensures that his trainees are able to ascertain at least three key learning moments, but also that they know how they can implement them into their workplace.
"In a defence environment, you're thinking about how you can keep yourself and those around you safe for the good of the entire organisation."
If no-one makes that connection, the trainees who may have had some great ideas could let them gather dust as they feel that no-one is even interested. Ensuring that employers are able to utilise their newfound knowledge and skills won't just make the employee feel valued, it will deliver far more value to you.
While we understand the competing demands of running a business, at the end of the day you will not be making a profit if your workers are injured. Whether it is paying compensation, employing a temp or dealing with non-compliance prosecution, without adequate health and safety training, you risk any of the former creating cash flow problems for your operation.
With a history as an ex-army coach for the Australian Defence Force, Ken Golden appreciates the value of health and safety more than most.
"The nature of what you do in defence is extremely dynamic and ultimately pretty dangerous at times," says Ken. "All the time in a defence environment, you're thinking about how you can keep yourself and those around you safe for the good of the entire organisation."
"In the civilian world, it shouldn't be any different," says Ken, "but I think that organisations struggle big time when it comes to workplace health and safety."
For more information or to book a course facilitated by Ken Golden at LMIT, get in touch today.
Published by: LMIT