Why should you provide online Health and Safety courses to your staff?
| Create an effective Health and Safety culture that protects your staff, customers and brand
| Be compliant with HSW Act 1974 and other regulations
| Create a more efficient, happy and healthy workforce
| Save on administration compared with classroom training
This article outlines the benefits of online health and safety training courses versus traditional classroom-based training, in the context of your legal responsibilities.
We like socratic questions at echo3education so lets start with a question.
Are online health and safety courses a tick box exercise that do little to actually improve safety?
I guess, if your business is already providing all the knowledge staff need to avoid every hazard that they could be exposed to at work, then the answer is likely yes. However, staff are only being trained to avoid the hazards, rather than being educated in a way that impacts their behaviour to the extent that many of the hazards aren’t caused in the first place. Surely a well-designed online course that not only enhances knowledge but also changes behaviour takes your HSE training from mere compliance to an investment in your people that could positively impact productivity and profit.
That said, it’s fair to say that, at present, health and safety training in the workplace doesn’t have a good reputation. Safety training, particularly in low-risk environments such as the office, is often referred to as a ‘waste of time’ or ‘common sense’. Another common opinion is that our environment is already overly safe and too sanitised.
In many cases this may be true – but it’s worth thinking from a legal standpoint. An individual and a business are both legal entities with responsibilities. An individual is legally free to expose themselves to hazards if they so wish as long as they aren’t harming anyone else. Individuals can go mountain biking, snowboarding or freediving in their own time with or without appropriate training no problem. But a business has no legal right to expose anyone under their care to a danger without first reducing the risks to a level that is reasonably practical.
Even though the risks associated with using a display screen are low, it’s not impractical to suggest staff undertake a 60 minute course every 3 years to refresh their understanding of how to reduce those risks. With the right training, you will hopefully find that staff embrace learning objectives around workstation health and find themselves developing habits that make them both happier, healthier and more effective employees. This is the goal of our Move More at Work course.
Although still there maybe scope for reducing the associated training cost via some online training and then reallocating budget onto further engineered solutions. For example online Display Screen equipment training instead of a face-face course and use the saving to purchase sit/stand desks for those suffering from MSDs or other symptoms of sedentary behaviour.
There are also clear financial advantages to operating safely that with the right staff behaviours developed through effective online health and safety courses your company will benefit from.
We know that since 1974 employers must take ‘reasonably practical’ steps to reduce the risk of harm to all staff, contractors and the public. As a reminder, hazards create the risk of harm. Hazards can be substantial like a fire or less severe like eye strain from computer screen glare. The greater the hazard the more effort should be done to reduce the chance of that particular hazard causing harm.
This behaviour is common sense and good for your business. Unfortunately, a zeitgeist exists in some industries that views health and safety as fastidious, pedantic and often even pointless. The health and safety officer role is consequently non-existent in some businesses.
This very general view of health and safety could be viewed as testament to industry’s success. Over the last 40 years the UK workplace has become consistently safer, to the point where many employees feel so safe they do not place value in efforts to make them safer. Perhaps with industry’s steady and consistent HSE improvements, the reputation of a health and safety manager’s role has become victim to its own success. Yet, employees would immediately react if one of their co-workers was injured at work and nothing was done about it, or if a member of the public was poisoned and nothing changed with regard to company practice.
One area of health and safety that commonly attracts derision, and often rightly, so is the use of signage. A well-placed sign that warns us to mind our heads, or the gap, is absolutely welcomed, but do we really need reminded to hold on to the handrail going down stairs? Safety signs should be considered a temporary last resort when a hazard cannot be removed. If staff have access to effective HSE training then many safety signs become defunct. And let’s face it, most safety signs are effectively just-in-time micro-training.
You won’t create a common sense safety culture with signs. For that you need effective training around all workplace hazards that exist.
If your existing health and safety training is viewed as obvious and pointless, perhaps it’s time to change your company’s training approach and rethink your learning objectives.
So, let’s look at the format that training might take…
Online v Classroom safety courses
The benefit of classroom training is an individual approach where technical questions can be addressed, so long as the instructor creates an open, two-way learning environment.
The thing with health and safety training at an awareness level is that most learning objectives aren’t difficult to grasp. The learning objectives focus on human behaviour, rather than complex theory. Because of this, the advantage of a personal instructor is minimal. For example, most people don’t need an instructor to explain why there exists a need to keep fire doors clear.
Online health and safety courses actually have a number of advantages over classroom training, see below. Most are self-explanatory but point 8 below requires a little elaboration.
Benefits of online HSE training:
- Consistent message guaranteed, so you know every topic is covered.
- Course assignment and administration tasks are automated.
- Courses can be assigned individually. If you have staff beginning work at different times this can be useful.
- There are no travel expenses.
- Carbon footprint is lower.
- Knowledge can be easily assessed. Only when a predefined level of achievement has been attained is the learner deemed to have passed.
- Training records are automatically stored and can be retrieved at a later date if required.
- Create a herd mentality around good health and safety practice.
Point 8 in detail:
On average, the human mind is good at making independent guesses. For example, guess the number of beans in a jar. The more people guessing and the closer the average answer will get to the correct result. This is true where guesses are independent. If people are told that ‘most people’ guess ‘xxx’, then their answer is no longer independent and answers skew towards the what ‘most people’ guess. This is herd mentality. Herd mentality is thought to be the same physiological phenomenon that causes stock market bubbles.
Why is this important? Staff who attend classroom training can undermine the objectives with disparaging comments to other staff. This tends not to happen when staff have proactively chosen to attend training but went training is mandatory, as is the case with safety training, this is more likely. Staff receiving these messages are at risk of their thoughts towards the learning objectives becoming skewed and are herded to a negative mindset regardless of the training quality. This will undermine the safety culture you are trying to create.
Managers need to balance the benefits of teamwork that helps staff work effectively towards the same goal with the dangers of ‘groupthink ‘. Groupthink prevents staff speaking out for fear of being ostracised. In general, the underlining groupthink around health and safety is not positive so isolating learners with eLearning can be seen as effective in developing a herd mentality around a positive safety culture.
Another benefit of eLearning is the impersonal nature of a computer. It may be hard for an instructor to ask staff directly how effective they are at communication. So a course encouraging self-reflection on sensitive topics that impact on work performance can often be a better way to go.
A financial benefit of online HSE training – Reducing staff turnover
Employment is historically high yet wages are not rising and so staff feel there is little to be lost from switching jobs. These factors are leading to higher turnover in the jobs market. In Britain it has been estimated that the hospitality sector has annual job turnover rate running at 90%.
Staff turnover is not to be encouraged of you want to save money. Roughly this is true at levels above 20%, below which allows for a healthy rotation of fresh ideas from new staff. In 2016, Deloitte suggested that among high-skilled staff the total cost of a departing employee was $121,000 in the US when combining hiring expenses and lost productivity.
So can health and safety training lower staff turnover? This is tricky to say definitively but we can say there are two guaranteed ways to reduce staff turnover and health and safety training supports one of those.
Firstly, pay higher wages.
Or secondly, convince employees they serve a bigger cause than boosting shareholder bank balances.
Dubbed ‘Inclusive Growth’, this is the idea that employees are serving an organisation that has a positive social impact beyond customers and shareholders. Deloitte noted 38% of businesses utilising Inclusive Growth ideas have benefited from greater employee engagement and low turnover By providing an awareness of hazards through safety training you’re empowering staff with a knowledge of those risks and, if done right, a feeling of responsibility towards their own health and that of their colleagues. For example our Move More at Work course encourages the learner to think about how they can support their friends and families to move more.
As an organisation you’re also evidencing to staff that you value their welfare – which plays a fundamental part of ‘inclusive growth’. If you train all your colleagues in First Aid they will have skills that could benefit members of their community and give them a sense of value as a result. Through the lens of ‘inclusive growth’, this sense of value may help reduce turnover.
So why use echo3education online Health and Safety courses?
We set ourselves apart with service, quality and value.
To enable you to most effectively capitalise on some of the online health and safety training benefits mentioned, our courses are informed by evidence-based education theories and approaches such as Social Constructivism and Socratic Questioning. Self-reflection is core to behavioural change. Many courses invite the learner to reflect on their behaviours and these reflections are woven through the training.
Assessments are designed to test that learners understand the correct behaviours rather than the correct facts. For example, by asking ‘What does the HSE act require?’ as opposed to ‘When was the HSE act passed”.
Whether you require a custom-built online course or choose to take advantage of our extensive library of pre-existing courses, we strive to offer best in class value.
So, in short, if staff are feeling like online health and safety courses are a pointless tick box exercise, you might wish to try echo3education. Let us help improve your health and safety culture.