Employee safety training: It’s one of those things we recognize as critical, but what makes an employee safety training program particularly effective? Start by covering seven key topics that are applicable to almost every industry.
Where to start with employee safety training topics
While there are industry-specific employee safety training topics, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides general guidelines for all companies. Here are seven industry-wide topics that you should consider covering in your new employee safety training program:
- Workplace ergonomics
- Online safety and cyber security
- Fire safety
- Workplace violence prevention
- Employee resources
- Environmental safety
Each of these employee safety training topics are an important part of your company-wide commitment to keeping your employees (and your company) safe.
1. Workplace ergonomics
Maybe your employees work in a cushy office with windows that don’t open and climate controlled conditions. What could possibly go wrong?
While it’s true that the risks of injury while working in an office are dwarfed when compared to those working on an oil rig or a construction site, ergonomic workplace injuries can cost your company real money in workman’s compensation claims and loss of productivity.
OSHA estimates that ergonomic injuries have a total annual cost between 45 and 50 billion dollars per year, with direct costs being approximately half of those numbers. They also estimate the per-person actual direct costs of the most common ergonomic injuries, including:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: $28,657
- Sprain: $28,338
- Strain: $32,319
- Hernia: $23,083
- Inflammation: $32,080
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that these five conditions made up 34% of all workplace injuries in 2012. Ergonomic workplace safety training, although not fancy or exciting, may be the best investment your company makes.
Teach employees how to lift, sit, and move throughout their day so you can be rewarded with fewer sick days, lowered healthcare costs, and happier employees.
2. Online safety and cyber security
Online safety training protects your employees, your customers, and your company by making sure employees are all following best practices when it comes to being online.
These include following any HIPAA guidelines for protecting sensitive health information but also covers things like standardized passwords and two-step verification procedures.
3. Fire safety
We take for granted that our adult employees understand fire safety, but it’s an important (and OSHA-required) part of every industry. New employee safety training must cover employee egress in event of a fire. Many employers do not want employees fighting fires, but some industries may also train employees in the use of fire extinguishers.
4. Workplace violence prevention
The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that approximately two million people in the U.S. are victims of workplace violence annually, with 80% of all active shooter incidents occurring in the workplace.
The statistics on domestic violence that seeps into the workplace are sobering as well. Women in the workplace are overwhelmingly the target of this type of workplace violence. A study of domestic violence survivors found that fully 74% of them were harassed or attacked in the workplace. OSHA identifies homicide as the leading cause of death for women at work.
Employee safety training must include strategies for workplace violence prevention, including recognizing the risk factors and signs of potential workplace and domestic violence that spreads to the workplace. This can literally save your employees’ life.
5. Employee resources
Of all the safety topics for office workers, clearly outlining available employee resources for mental and physical health and well-being may be the most pro-active step you can take.
It used to be that employee resources consisted of a few pamphlets in the HR department about mental health and substance abuse, with maybe a brief training on being healthy. These days, employers are recognizing the importance of supporting employees in all of the challenges they face, both on and off the job.
If your company has an outstanding mental health support policy, share it with them. Maybe you offer incentives for exercise or include employees in physical fundraising challenges like Race for the Cure. Make these benefits a part of your recruitment strategy and your employees will recognize you as a company that cares. Employees who feel valued will work harder, stay longer, and be more productive for your company.
6. Environmental safety
Environmental safety is not just about respect for the planet and its resources. Environmental safety training for employees includes strategies that can vary widely by industry. Some environmental safety training topics may include:
- Material storage and disposal
- Safe lifting
- Electrical safety
- General office safety
The more your company deals with hazardous materials, the more crucial environmental safety training becomes. All companies can benefit from environmental safety training, but dealing with biohazards and hazardous waste definitely requires more than a passing mention.
7. Equipment safety
Safe use of job-specific equipment is a must, even if employees come to your company with skills and experience. While there is something to be said for on-the-job experience, some employees may not know the ins and outs of a particular piece of machinery (including what it can do and any special safety features).
This aspect is particularly dependent on the industry you’re in. Make sure to account for every piece of machinery or equipment your employees will come into contact with.
How to create effective workplace safety training programs
Your workplace safety training is only as good as the materials you use and your system of delivery. A solid employee safety training must do the following:
Understand the needs of your employees: Your safety training must take into consideration who is being trained. Information that is too broad and general can be ineffective and a waste of time. Tailor your training to your company’s needs and your employees’ prior knowledge.
Be applicable: While some workplace safety trainings are required and may not apply to all employees, most of the time you spend on training should give employees the tools they need to do their job, safely and effectively.
Hold everyone accountable: From upper level managers and company owners to interns, all employees must be held accountable to the same safety standards. Modeling safety from the top sets the tone for the company.
Be mobile and adaptive: Five-hundred page safety manuals no one reads aren’t the standard of business anymore. You need safety trainings that are mobile, agile, and useful on-site. Consider incorporating on-the-job microlearning resources into your program, or create geofenced resources that employees can use when on a particular site.
Need help tailoring your safety training to your company’s needs? EdgePoint Learning can help with that! Get in touch to see how we can help you.