For organizations with large contractor workforces, managing risk by ensuring safety has become increasingly important. Companies rely on comprehensive occupational health and safety training to keep their workers safe and to mitigate supply chain and regulatory risks associated with poor safety adherence among their contractor workforce. They have realized that safety training is not a one-and-done initiative. Technology, regulations, and processes change rapidly, and humans often forget a staggering 70% of new information within a day of learning it, making ongoing refresher safety training a critical component of doing good business.
According to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “Injury and Illness Prevention Programs” white paper, employers that adhere to active health and safety programs experience between 9% and more than 60% lower incident rates among their workforce. They also see increased productivity and lower employee turnover. More than a quarter of organizations OSHA surveyed also rank reduced costs as a top benefit of refresher training. Done right, regularly conducted safety training clearly benefits workers and the organizations for which they work.
Here are five reasons why refresher safety training is increasingly important today.
- Today’s Workers Must Switch Gears More Frequently
Today’s workforce is far different than it used to be. According to a recent poll, contractors fill one in every five jobs in America. Their roles and responsibilities often change. Workers may be required to perform specific tasks, such as operating dangerous machinery, which they may not have performed in months or even years. When a task hasn’t been performed for a prolonged period of time, retraining is necessary. Without a proper refresher, accidentally skipping a step or improperly using specialized equipment is likely and could lead to injuries, expensive repairs, and disruption to work quality. Standardized safety training and regular refreshers allow workers to quickly and easily move from job to job and from location to location with confidence and competence.
- We Are Only Human
While automation and technology have undoubtedly changed the way we work, they do not eliminate mistakes or change our mental capacity. Adults retain less than 50% of what they learn within an hour of a training class and more than 80% of what they learn in training after just 2 days, leaving them vulnerable to forgetting proper techniques and precautions. Refresher training helps workers eliminate mistakes that could have dangerous or even deadly consequences, especially when they can happen in environments that often contain hazards such as volatile materials or extreme work conditions.
- Today’s Workforce Expects It
Millennials—generally defined as those currently 25 to 39 years old—now make up the largest portion of the workforce. Their job expectations include an emphasis on training and development. In fact, in a 2018 report, more than half surveyed say they would quit a job that didn’t provide proper training. Also, 68% believe continued training and development is their organization’s most important policy. And, 42% consider continued training a factor when deciding where to work.
Fortunately, technology is making it more efficient to get workers of all ages the training they need and want. Web-based technologies help employers keep track of employee and contractor safety training and certifications that are required for employment. They also enable online courses and e-learning that can provide on-demand refresher training in manageable—and more memorable—bites. Offered regularly, the refresher training not only qualifies workers for employment but also boosts job satisfaction and builds confidence in their abilities to do their work.
4. Technology Presents New Learning Curves
Advancements in technology have made learning more readily available and training needs easier to track. The advancements have also introduced equipment that requires new ways of operation. Utilizing or operating new equipment, even if it performs similarly to earlier models, involves a learning curve that—without proper support—can result in mistakes that can easily lead to accidents. Refresher courses that cover correct operation techniques, awareness of machine hazards, and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) help to ensure workers are protected, comfortable, and confident with new operations and procedures. Retraining not only reinforces already learned skills but also can identify and correct knowledge gaps that would have otherwise gone unrecognized.
Workers who receive retraining or refresher training can routinely review the safety training materials they are provided. Persistent, accredited training ensures that they are reviewing the most up-to-date information so their skills and knowledge of best practices stay fresh and top of mind.
- Safety’s Priority Continues to Increase
Unfortunately, in recent years, there have been several highly publicized workplace accidents that could have been prevented with proper safety training and precautions. Awareness of safety-related risks and the importance of taking measures to avoid them are heightened after witnessing what could happen when safety is overlooked.
Organizations, including OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), have recognized the growing importance of safety and have highlighted the hazards faced by workers, especially in industries deemed the most dangerous to work, such as the oil and gas (O&G) industry.
Employers have responded by recognizing the importance of protecting their workers and communities through comprehensive, ongoing safety training programs. An ISHN 2017 survey found that developing a safety program and helping workers retain important safety knowledge and best practices is a top goal of O&G, utility, and energy employers. As many as 60% are committed to developing or improving their overall safety culture, and 58% rank refresher training as a top initiative.
Takeaway for Employers
The bottom line is that safety training refreshers are an important component of today’s safety curriculum and culture, and ongoing safety training has become an employment expectation, not unlike healthcare benefits. Today’s workers expect training that keeps them up to date on changing regulations and technologies, strengthens their skills so they can perform multiple duties, and helps reduce the risk of incidents that could harm them or their organizations. Frequent refresher training is now an integral component of occupational health and safety programs—both for internal employees and as a requirement for a company’s contractor workforce—helping to protect worksites, deliver workers home safely, and mitigate supply chain risk.