Like all other workplace training, putting workers or managers through health and safety training ultimately is a business expense without any immediate returns. But major problems can arise when such a pivotal competency is put on the back burner.
We don't see sporting teams reducing their training – for these ones certainly aren't playing in the premier league. It's quite the opposite. They might spend three nights a week training, so that when it comes to the game on Saturday, they're fully strategised and ready to win. So why aren't businesses the same?
Understanding the ROI of WHS training
According to experienced WHS trainer Ken Golden, many organisations don't go through the process of assessing the return on investment of providing such training – they just see it as an inconvenient cost, be it through time or money wasted. But this short-sightedness can lead to a wealth of problems and a debilitating organisational culture of complacency and unaccountability.
"When an organisation gets into trouble, they first accuse the workers, regardless of what level in the organisation, of not being able to do something or not following through on something," he notices. "However, it could well be that it was a training issue. Somewhere in the pipeline they missed the opportunity to provide the right level of training."
A lot of the time, the apprehension towards additional training derives from a misunderstanding of the tangible returns. But there is an important oversight here, for the employer may never become aware of their savings. For instance, WHS training may prevent an employee's injury or death, meaning that while you may never know the exact return on your investment, it is most certainly a safeguard for the future.
However, to receive these benefits there needs to be support that trickles down from the top, suggests Ken.
There are many benefits to training when managers have the right attitude to WHS.
How can employers get the most out of WHS training?
When many organisations send their workers through WHS training, often it is just because they are required to do so. But some recognise that there are benefits, not just risks involving noncompliance.
"They understand that, by providing appropriate and relevant training to workers, morale is higher, staff churn is reduced, incident rates are reduced, costs are lowered, so eventually productivity and profits go up too," says Ken.
But this isn't given, as a lot of the time leaders need to adjust their attitudes and change the impetus of improvement from compliance to commitment. They need to be genuinely trying to meet their moral obligations to their workers.
"If you are just doing it for the sake of doing it, it's compliance and it doesn't really mean anything – you're just ticking boxes," says Ken. "If you have got someone enthusiastic saying that they want to get these people trained and to do things practically, there's a transfer of energy into the workers and they get involved."
Companies that are achieving a competitive advantage through their WHS are those where management gets involved and is committed, says Ken. Having people trained and with the right attitude can make a world of difference – especially when management is too.
Ensuring a practical approach to WHS strategy
After delivering a two-hour training course to the senior leadership team of an organisation, Ken was able to change the CEOs dismissive attitude towards WHS and set the leadership group – and consequently the entire organisation – on a new course.
"An hour and a half after I had left the building he went to his HR manager and started implementing the changes that I had raised, many of which were what she was wanting to do anyway," says Ken.
"If you make things too complex, the worker is going to find a shortcut, whether you like it or not."
Here, it came down to delivering a practical WHS strategy that keeps it simple but achieves the right outcome. And this is just as important as being committed.
Sometimes, organisations take a convoluted policy-driven approach, with health and safety systems comprising of extensive policies and paperwork. But this is not going to achieve the right results – in fact, it might do just the opposite.
"If you make things too complex, the worker is going to find a shortcut, whether you like it or not," says Ken.
"It's about setting the workers up so they have a practical application to keep them and their co-workers safe. But this needs to be done at a grass roots level rather than just a policy level."
Making sure the training pays off
When eliciting an organisation-wide commitment to health and safety, ensuring that workers at all levels are supported and appreciated requires the leadership team to be committed as well. It becomes problematic, for instance, when workers are promoted to be a health and safety representative without any formal training – they are just expected to know what to do.
"That doesn't make sense," says Ken. "Workers want to feel valued and contribute to the outcome of a workplace. Train your workers and look for opportunities to establish succession planning, but most importantly, don't disregard their WHS education."
For all of your WHS training needs, book a course with Line Management Institute of Training today.
Published by: LMIT