What is EHS training?
Why does workplace safety training matter?
How do you do training right?
As you’ve probably guessed from the title, we’re going to answer those questions and more in this article. If you’re new to workplace safety training, unsure what training OSHA requires, want to optimize worker training at your organization, or all of the above, you’ve come to the right place.
What is EHS?
EHS stands for environment, health, and safety. We’re talking about how to keep people safe while they do their jobs. EHS encompasses everything from accident prevention and incident response to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), safety data sheet (SDS) management, Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reporting, and more.
That sounds like it should be a no-brainer. No one wants to get hurt, get sick, or die. No employer wants to pay the enormous financial costs in the wake of an accident. And no one wants to deal with OSHA, which oversees workplace safety at the federal and state levels.
And yet injuries and illnesses happen, OSHA gets involved, and organizations pay the price. In 2018 and 2019, the federal agency and its 22 State Plans conducted over 100,000 inspections and found numerous violations and safety hazards. Throughout industries, states, and organizations, incidents continue to happen and workers face life-threatening conditions daily.
What gives? Well, as it turns out, EHS isn’t a no-brainer, but… a big-brainer? A yes-brainer? It’s complicated and getting more complicated by the day. It certainly doesn’t happen automatically.
…Which is why EHS training exists.
What is EHS Training?
EHS training is how you educate your employees on how to do their jobs safely, effectively, and in accordance with OSHA’s rules, guidelines, and standards. Call it workplace safety training, health and safety training, safety compliance training, or simply safety training. It’s everything your employees need to know about avoiding falls, chemical spills, cuts and amputations, respiratory diseases, eye injuries, and other hazards in the workplace.
You need to provide basic safety training to all employees, as well as specialized training to certain groups of employees depending on their job functions. For instance, a forklift operator should be trained on general safety procedures as well as on forklift use and maintenance.
An employee’s location matters, too. Workers in California or New York have different training requirements than workers in Iowa or Arkansas do.
In addition to training during onboarding, it’s important to provide refresher training periodically (e.g. once a year) and updated training whenever rules change or new technologies are introduced into the workplace.
Why Does EHS Training Matter?
EHS training matters for two reasons:
Why Do Employers Struggle with Safety Training?
This is all fairly obvious—okay, very obvious. Most employers out there understand the importance of training. Nonetheless, they struggle to do it right, for several reasons:
Organizations know they have to do it, but finding the time for it can be a challenge.
Learners and instructors just want to get through it as quickly as possible.
They’re clunky, out-of-date, and frustrating to use.
Particularly during a crisis. People panic and forget what they learned a year ago.
Substandard training isn’t just a time- and energy-suck; it’s a massive risk to your people and business. If you can’t prove that your employees are well-informed and trained to do their jobs safely, you could be exposing them to deadly risks and putting your business on the line.
Plus, effective training is more than a safety imperative. It’s how top-performing organizations maximize worker morale, productivity, and retention. You need to train your employees the right way if you want to keep them around and working at their best.
Before we dive into how to do training the right way, let’s take a look at the training landscape and explore what kinds of solutions are out there, and what topics safety training tends to cover.
What Safety Training Solutions Are Available?
There are numerous kinds of training solutions and platforms available for employers. The most common tool companies rely on called a learning management system, or “LMS” for short.
Even if you’re not familiar with the acronym, you’ve almost certainly used a learning management system. LMS solutions are everywhere. Typically, they’re web-based or installed software applications that distribute lessons to employees. Course styles range from simple blocks of text to video presentations, multiple choice quizzes, interactive games, role-play activities, and more.
Some organizations decline to use LMSes and offer training completely in-person instead. The learning environment resembles a typical classroom setup—an instructor stands at the head of a class of learners and delivers lectures, answers questions, and administers tests.
For most organizations, neither of these kinds of solutions is ideal. In-person classroom training is slow, rudimentary, and time- and resource-intensive. Many LMSes, meanwhile, are stuck in the past—they’re saddled with poor user interfaces, full of grainy images and videos that look like they were shot in 1985, and may not cover the technologies and realities of 2023.
On top of these limitations, in-person training and typical LMS solutions frequently fail in terms of ensuring compliance. People learn about general safety policies and procedures, but are lost when it comes to OSHA-required recording and reporting. There’s no automated way to certify training, analyze data, or produce information during an audit or inspection. Learning and compliance are kept in completely separate buckets or siloes, so to speak.
When multiple systems are cobbled together, things tend to fall through the cracks. The only option for an organization looking to ensure total coverage and thorough compliance is an integrated training and EHS software system. In other words, you need a single platform for everything—compliance, incident management, corrective actions, recordkeeping, reporting, and training.
What Topics Does Safety Training Need to Cover?
Regardless of how it’s delivered, EHS training needs to cover certain topics. OSHA requires every “general industry” employer to educate the workforce about the following (PDF):
- exit routes and emergency planning
- powered platforms, manlifts, and vehicle-mounted work platforms
- occupational health and environmental control
- hazardous materials
- personal protective equipment
- general environmental controls
- medical services and first aid
- fire protection
- materials handling and storage
- machinery and machine guarding
- welding, cutting, and brazing
- electrical safety-related work practices
- commercial diving operations
- toxic and hazardous substances
This is just a brief and incomplete overview of what safety training employers need to deliver to employees. Many of these topics have subtopics, along with specialized requirements and considerations for certain types of employees. Other industries, including maritime, construction, and agriculture, have different training requirements under OSHA. Regulators at the state and municipal level may obligate employers to provide additional training.
Meanwhile, other agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), require their own training, such as training on hazardous waste management and working with ventilation and air conditioning systems.
On top of all that, there are a number of necessary human resources and security training topics that involve employee health and safety: workplace violence prevention, harassment prevention, customer data protection, and so on.
And those are just the fundamentals. Many employers need to go further and provide voluntary, industry-specific training that isn’t legally compulsory, per se, but essentially mandatory for doing business.
As you can imagine, many human instructors and LMS solutions fall short in covering everything.
How Do You Do Training Right?
So, how do you deliver training that covers everything your employees need to know, meets various regulatory requirements, maximizes learner retention, and ensures compliance? And how do you do all that without spending a fortune?
As a recognized leader in health and safety training, we have plenty of knowledge to share on the subject. We’ve written the book about this stuff—literally.
Here’s a super-condensed crash course on better workforce safety training:
Ensure Safety and Improve Productivity with Award-Winning Training By KPA
KPA offers award-winning training courses designed to help employees improve their performance on the job. Scenario-based learning modules educate learners on the laws and regulations that apply to their jobs. Our courses feature high-level interactivity and video-based content designed to hold learners’ interest and keep them engaged.
KPA training is…
- available online
- available on-site, led by our Risk Management Consultants,
- designed to help employees improve their performance on the job and improve compliance,
- based on real-world stories and examples.
KPA’s training team has developed an extensive library of EHS, HR, and F&I training courses to meet your needs.
Check out the sample library of courses we offer.