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Safety Training for Lean Times: It’s Got to Be Cost-Effective as Well as Effective

Originally posted by Chris Kilbourne on http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

Although the economy is improving, these are still lean times, which means you’re looking for effective ways to provide the necessary training at the lowest cost possible.

In the context of safety training, “cost-effective” means providing solutions that give you the best value for the money your management allocates for employee training.

Improving, or even just maintaining, training effectiveness on a tight budget is a challenge. But there are ways to make safety training both cheaper and more effective, while still reaching all the workers who need training.

One way many organizations are managing to keep training costs down is by using Internet and computer-based training (CBT). These programs are often well priced as well as effective. They often:

  • Make it easy to educate a lot of employees or just a few
  • Offer a self-paced format to accommodate a range of learning styles
  • Give a consistent safety message
  • Contain good information in a well-organized, interactive format
  • Provide evaluations and takeaways

Often, the delivery of well-designed computer or Internet-based training can offer dramatic cost savings. But remember you must always also consider the effectiveness of any type of training in meeting employee performance objectives. Cheaper training doesn’t necessarily translate to better training or regulatory compliance.

OSHA Requirements

While you are trying to save money on training, you have to make sure you are also meeting OSHA requirements.

OSHA has written four interpretation letters to clarify its position on the use of computer or Internet-based training programs to meet certain safety and health training requirements. Here is a summary of OSHA’s statements:

  • Employers, not the training provider, are ultimately responsible for ensuring that employees receive the proper training to perform their duties.
  • Use of computer or Internet-based training by itself would not be sufficient to meet the intent of most OSHA training requirements. Employers may use the CBT programs to meet the minimum requirements for the course content material of a training course.
  • Trainees must have the opportunity to ask questions in order for training to be effective; a telephone hotline or e-mail satisfies OSHA’s requirement for trainer access if the employee can ask and receive a response from a qualified trainer.
  • Employers who use CBT must still meet the minimum duration and type of hands-on or supervised training specified in OSHA requirements.

Comprehension Is Essential, Too

Employee comprehension of training content is another important issue involved in making sure training, in whatever format, is effective as well as cost-effective.

OSHA’s general policy is that if an employee receives job instructions in a language other than English, training and information must also be conveyed in that language.

Similarly, says OSHA, if the employee’s vocabulary is limited, the training must account for that limitation. And, if employees are not literate, telling them to read training materials will not satisfy the employer’s training obligation.

This means that for OSHA-required training at least, you must always balance cost-effectiveness with effectiveness of learning, even in lean times.