Shuffling everyone into a room, taking attendance and loading the DVD player with the same tired safety video may not be enough to satisfy the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) training requirements. Simply having employees read a handbook or instruction manual may not either.
Many OSHA regulations require employees to have specific training to increase their understanding of a hazard and provide information that employees need to avoid that hazard or work safely with it. If training doesn’t accomplish these objectives, the time set aside for training has been wasted and employees may not have gained the knowledge necessary to work safely and avoid an incident.
Psychologists and educators have developed numerous theories about how adults learn and how to structure learning to increase their comprehension. The bottom line: People learn in different ways.
When applying adult learning principles to safety trainings, it’s important for the trainer to understand this so that they can engage each student. Including a mix of visual, auditory and kinesthetic components into trainings stimulates different adult learning styles.
For facilities with a diverse workforce, however, that still may not be enough to satisfy OSHA’s training requirements. In a 2010 policy statement, OSHA clarifies that employers must “present [training] in a manner that employees can understand.” For many facilities, that means presenting trainings in multiple languages or formats.
OSHA has instructed their compliance officers to look for “barriers or impediments to understanding.” The alignment of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) reinforces this commitment.
Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor, has also spoken numerous times on this topic. In a 2013 agency vision statement, he stated, “Our nation’s workers speak numerous languages, and many of those with limited English proficiency work in the most high-hazard jobs…OSHA has made it a priority to ensure these workers receive training and information in a language and vocabulary they can understand.”
For facilities who have determined the need for training in different languages and formats, OSHA provides compliance assistance. Area and state OSHA offices can provide additional resources.
Many credit iconic Chinese Philosopher Confucius with saying, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Providing training in a manner that promotes understanding will help prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.