Over the last ten years, the number of accidents and fatal injuries in the workplace has decreased dramatically in the UK, where the performance in terms of health and safety at work is better than many other European countries.
However, in 2012/2013 there were still 148 fatal accidents reported in the workplace, 175,000 self-reported over seven day absence injuries, and 78,000 other injuries to employees (reported under RIDDOR) which occurred, according to HSE and the Labour Force Survey.
Choosing an appropriate health and safety training course for your staff is critical, but the sheer number of providers offering their services can make it an overwhelming decision, often leading to choice-paralysis.
All workers have a right to work in environments where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled, but they must also remember that they are simultaneously responsible for their own health and safety and that of their colleagues. It’s a multi-dimensional situation which makes the process of choosing the right training course especially thorny.
So where to start?
It is likely in the contemporary business climate that a health and safety audit was performed fairly recently; this would have highlighted particular areas that need to be addressed. So, a sensible first step would be to revisit the reports and define what you need to achieve.
Another starting point could be a recent workplace risk assessment. This is a critical step in both ensuring the safety of your workers and protecting your business. It is a process whereby you methodically identify what could harm people in your workplace and what steps should be taken to either eliminate or manage the risk. Part of managing any of the key risks identified by this process may involve training, e.g. if workers need to lift objects on some occasions such as boxes, do they know how to do that in a safe way?
If your organisation is small and you are confident you understand what’s involved, it is something you can undertake yourself:
- Go through each room in your organisation and look at what could reasonably cause harm.
- Involve your employees and ask them if they have noticed anything.
- If you are part of a larger organisation, consult your health and safety representatives and get their views.
The idea is to evaluate the risks and assess who in the workplace is exposed to them, in order to establish what kind of training is required, and for
Before looking into specialist training relevant to a smaller proportion of your staff, it might be worth starting with a more generic course, introducing the principles of health and safety in the workplace so all employees understand their role and responsibilities within your organisation.
Choosing the right format
Training providers tend to offer a wide range of course delivery options, usually public courses in dedicated training centres, bespoke training delivered in-house and e-learning or distance learning.
Each solution offers clear advantages so it is important to understand what will best meet your needs. Start by establishing the number of employees to train, the training budget available, and the general availabilities of the delegates.
Public courses are ideal when you have few employees to train who can afford to take time out of the office. For many people, studying in a dedicated training environment away from the office is beneficial for concentration, whilst interacting with others from a different sector as it can help getting a wider understanding of the issues covered.
If you have a larger group of employees to train, but would still like them to benefit from face-to-face training and interaction with other learners, consider in-house training. It also means that no travel or accommodation costs are incurred.
E-learning or distance learning can be a relatively inexpensive way to train staff. Another benefit is that it can give the learner flexibility in terms of when they can do the course, so that it can fit around other work and personal commitments.
It is worth involving employees at this stage of the selection process. For instance, you may consider conducting a survey and finding out which specific methods of training have proven helpful in the past, or indeed which specific methods would work best for them.
What to expect from trainers
Health and safety courses can be provided by a variety of organisations, from trade associations to employer bodies such as Chambers of Commerce, charities, further education colleges, independent health and safety consultants, or private training companies.
Some training providers deliver qualifications offered by Ofqual regulated Awarding Organisations that set standards for learners and assess whether the standards are reached before awarding the qualification. They also monitor the training standards of the training provider. British Safety Council, City and Guilds and CIEH are examples of well-established Awarding Organisations.
Don’t be afraid to ask your provider to show relevant qualifications and demonstrate their experience and success rates: due diligence is essential.
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