How can we make health and safety training stick?

By Colin Pilbeam - October 04, 2023

How effective is your safety training? Does it make a difference? These questions are important but not often addressed for fear of the answer.

There are several reasons why what is learned in the training session fails to embed in the workplace. Safety training is mandated and often has a compliance focus, which makes it neither meaningful nor memorable.It also suffers from degradation through lack of practice – accidents and incidents are uncommon, fortunately. 

Organisations also seem to presume that one-size-fits-all, which is evidently illogical given the variety of tasks and functions performed by most organisations and the variation in individual learning styles. Training should be tailored appropriately to the context. With a grant from Lloyds Register Foundation, London, UK we were able to investigate how and where context is considered in safety training and what contextual factors are important through a series of interviews with experienced H&S trainers. 

Alarmingly, the influence of context is rarely considered formally in the design of training programmes. Where it does appear is in the informal conversations in the classroom. Something that is obviously not possible with standardised online training.

Many of the contextual factors identified in the interviews that operate at the individual or organisational level, such as competence and management support or organisational culture respectively, are well known. What we had not anticipated was the influence of factors operating at a societal level, like national culture, regulatory setting, or legal frameworks, that shape individual responses to training. The study also surfaced the importance of political factors, such as leaders’ beliefs and unionisation. These can negatively impact the adoption of what is trained. 

According to one interviewee, "H&S training without context is pointless." So, does your H&S training take account of context? Or is it simply a waste of resources?

Read more of the findings from the study here.