Training Guidelines

OSHA's training guidelines follow a model that consists of:

  • Determining if Training is Needed

  • Identifying Training Needs

  • Identifying Goals and Objectives

  • Developing Learning Activities

  • Conducting the Training

  • Evaluating Program Effectiveness

  • Improving the Program

The model is designed to be one that even the owner of a business with very few employees can use without having to hire a professional trainer or purchase expensive training materials. Using this model, employers or supervisors can develop and administer safety and health training programs that address problems specific to their own business, fulfill the learning needs of their own employees, and strengthen the overall safety and health program of the workplace.

Determining If Training is Needed

The first step in the training process is a basic one: to determine whether a problem can be solved by training. Whenever employees are not performing their jobs properly, it is often assumed that training will bring them up to standard. However, it is possible that other actions (such as hazard abatement or the implementation of engineering controls) would enable employees to perform their jobs properly.

Ideally, safety and health training should be provided before problems or accidents occur. This training would cover both general safety and health rules and work procedures, and would be repeated if an accident or near-miss incident occurred.

Problems that can be addressed effectively by training include those that arise from lack of knowledge of a work process, unfamiliarity with equipment, or incorrect execution of a task. Training is less effective (but still can be used) for problems arising from an employee's lack of motivation or lack of attention to the job. Whatever its purpose, training is most effective when designed in relation to the goals of the employer's total safety and health program.

Identifying Training Needs

If the problem is one that can be solved, in whole or in part, by training, then the next step is to determine what training is needed. For this, it is necessary to identify what the employee is expected to do and in what ways, if any, the employee's performance is deficient. This information can be obtained by conducting a job analysis which pinpoints what an employee needs to know in order to perform a job.

When designing a new training program, or preparing to instruct an employee in an unfamiliar procedure or system, a job analysis can be developed by examining engineering data on new equipment or the safety data sheets on unfamiliar substances. The content of the specific Federal or State OSHA standards applicable to a business can also provide direction in developing training content. Another option is to conduct a Job Hazard Analysis. This is a procedure for studying and recording each step of a job, identifying existing or potential hazards, and determining the best way to perform the job in order to reduce or eliminate the risks. Information obtained from a Job Hazard Analysis can be used as the content for the training activity.

If an employee's learning needs can be met by revising an existing training program rather than developing a new one, or if the employee already has some knowledge of the process or system to be used, appropriate training content can be developed through such means as:

  1. Using company accident and injury records to identify how accidents occur and what can be done to prevent them from recurring.

  2. Requesting employees to provide, in writing and in their own words, descriptions of their jobs. These should include the tasks performed and the tools, materials and equipment used.

  3. Observing employees at the worksite as they perform tasks, asking about the work, and recording their answers.

  4. Examining similar training programs offered by other companies in the same industry, or obtaining suggestions from such organizations as the National Safety Council (which can provide information on Job Hazard Analysis), the Bureau of Labor Statistics, OSHA-approved State programs, OSHA full-service Area Offices, OSHA-funded State consultation programs, or the OSHA Office of Training and Education.

The employees themselves can provide valuable information on the training they need. Safety and health hazards can be identified through the employees' responses to such questions as whether anything about their jobs frightens them, if they have had any near-miss incidents, if they feel they are taking risks, or if they believe that their jobs involve hazardous operations or substances.

Once the kind of training that is needed has been determined, it is equally important to determine what kind of training is not needed. Employees should be made aware of all the steps involved in a task or procedure, but training should focus on those steps on which improved performance is needed. This avoids unnecessary training and tailors the training to meet the needs of the employees.

Identifying Goals and Objectives

Once the employees' training needs have been identified, employers can then prepare objectives for the training. Instructional objectives, if clearly stated, will tell employers what they want their employees to do, to do better, or to stop doing.

Learning objectives do not necessarily have to be written, but in order for the training to be as successful as possible, clear and measurable objectives should be thought-out before the training begins. For an objective to be effective it should identify as precisely as possible what the individuals will do to demonstrate that they have learned, or that the objective has been reached. They should also describe the important conditions under which the individual will demonstrate competence and define what constitutes acceptable performance.

Using specific, action-oriented language, the instructional objectives should describe the preferred practice or skill and its observable behavior. For example, rather than using the statement: "The employee will understand how to use a respirator" as an instructional objective, it would be better to say: "The employee will be able to describe how a respirator works and when it should be used." Objectives are most effective when worded in sufficient detail that other qualified persons can recognize when the desired behavior is exhibited.

Developing Learning Activities

Once employers have stated precisely what the objectives for the training program are, then learning activities can be identified and described. Learning activities enable employees to demonstrate that they have acquired the desired skills and knowledge. To ensure that employees transfer the skills or knowledge from the learning activity to the job, the learning situation should simulate the actual job as closely as possible.

Thus, employers may want to arrange the objectives and activities in a sequence which corresponds to the order in which the tasks are to be performed on the job, if a specific process is to be learned. For instance, if an employee must learn the beginning processes of using a machine, the sequence might be:

  1. to check that the power source is connected;

  2. to ensure that the safety devices are in place and are operative;

  3. to know when and how to throw the switch; and so on.

A few factors will help to determine the type of learning activity to be incorporated into the training. One aspect is the training resources available to the employer. Can a group training program that uses an outside trainer and film be organized, or should the employer personally train the employees on a one-to-one basis? Another factor is the kind of skills or knowledge to be learned. Is the learning oriented toward physical skills (such as the use of special tools) or toward mental processes and attitudes? Such factors will influence the type of learning activity designed by employers. The training activity can be group-oriented, with lectures, role play, and demonstration; or designed for the individual as with self-paced instruction.

The determination of methods and materials for the learning activity can be as varied as the employer's imagination and available resources will allow. The employer may want to use charts, diagrams, manuals, slides, films, viewgraphs (overhead transparencies), videotapes, audiotapes, or simply blackboard and chalk, or any combination of these and other instructional aids. Whatever the method of instruction, the learning activities should be developed in such a way that the employees can clearly demonstrate that they have acquired the desired skills or knowledge.

Conducting the Training

With the completion of the steps outlined above, the employer is ready to begin conducting the training. To the extent possible, the training should be presented so that its organization and meaning are clear to the employees. To do so, employers or supervisors should:

  1. provide overviews of the material to be learned;

  2. relate, wherever possible, the new information or skills to the employees' goals, interests, or experience; and

  3. reinforce what the employees learned by summarizing the program's objectives and the key points of information covered.

These steps will assist employers in presenting the training in a clear, unambiguous manner.

In addition to organizing the content, employers must also develop the structure and format of the training. The content developed for the program, the nature of the workplace or other training site, and the resources available for training will help employers determine for themselves the frequency of training activities, the length of the sessions, the instructional techniques, and the individual(s) best qualified to present the information.

In order to be motivated to pay attention and learn the material that the employer or supervisor is presenting, employees must be convinced of the importance and relevance of the material. Among the ways of developing motivation are:

  1. explaining the goals and objectives of instruction;

  2. relating the training to the interests, skills, and experiences of the employees;

  3. outlining the main points to be presented during the training session(s); and

  4. pointing out the benefits of training (e.g., the employee will be better informed, more skilled, and thus more valuable both on the job and on the labor market; or the employee will, if he or she applies the skills and knowledge learned, be able to work at reduced risk).

An effective training program allows employees to participate in the training process and to practice their skills or knowledge. This will help to ensure that they are learning the required knowledge or skills and permit correction if necessary. Employees can become involved in the training process by participating in discussions, asking questions, contributing their knowledge and expertise, learning through hands-on experiences, and through role-playing exercises.

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