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The SMART Way to Approach Safety Training

Toby Graham /

Let’s say we’ve set a goal to improve safety training for four high-risk areas in the workplace—tool safety, eye injury prevention, forklift operator, and lift safety training. It’s not enough to simply say “We’re going to improve safety training.” If only it were that quick and easy! That’s where SMART goals come in. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Reasonable, and Timely, and we’ll dive into them deeper in a moment.

Back to safety training. Succeeding at improving safety training requires a deeper dive. For example:

  • Who should be involved and how?
  • What’s the timeline for achieving the safety training goal?
  • Will we conduct drills, and if so, how?
  • How will workers complete the safety training?
  • What’s the criteria for successful completion?
  • What format will we use for the training? Will we do it in-house?
  • How will we measure success?
  • Will we use software to help track and measure progress?
  • Will workers be tested on what they’ve been taught?
  • Are there operational issues we should consider? Like, how will we train workers and still ensure we’re meeting business goals?  

When you ask specific questions like these, you start to see the pathways toward reaching the underlying goal of improving safety training in a much more practical and transparent way.

SMART at work

Now, let’s say we rework the goal of improving safety training to “We will achieve 100% safety training completion in the four safety courses we currently offer by March 1.” Wow, that’s already much better!

As of January 1, none of the 40 employees in the workplace had been trained on those high-risk areas of tool safety, eye injury prevention, forklift operator, and lift safety training. With a goal of getting everyone trained by March 1, where do you start?

The first step is to set the SMART goals for each area—again, that means making those goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Accountable
  • Reasonable
  • Timely

Then, drill down with some specific questions. For example:

  • How will you train the workforce on each of these areas?
  • Is it best to use software?
  • Will we need to set up computers for them to train on? Can we do this through their mobile devices?
  • Is any of the training best done in a group huddle?
  • Will after-hours resources be needed?
  • Will we give employees practice time?

Once you have your SMART goals completed, the safety training initiative should be off and running.

Now, let’s say by February 1 you’re seeing positive attendance rates in tool safety, eye injury prevention, and lift safety, with between 30 and 35 employees completing these trainings. But, only 10 employees have completed the forklift safety. So, why isn’t the forklift operator training program progressing at the same rate? It’s time to do some additional analysis by breaking down the problem and coming up with some potential solutions.

We can think of 3 potential reasons why the facility may not have been able to meet its forklift safety training so far:

  1. It requires driver’s practice and a test
  2. The forklift isn’t always available for practice
  3. Department managers don’t know anything yet about administering a test

And, here are a couple of practical solutions for addressing the issue:

  • Set up timeframes and obstacles area for forklift practice based on when forklifts are not needed for actual business use
  • Review forklift testing requirements with supervisors

By addressing stumbling blocks that may be impeding the forklift training initiative, it becomes more clear what additional steps may be needed to improve safety training overall.

Measuring SMART goals

Once you’ve set up SMART goals, it’s important to measure your progress. This will also make it easier when company leadership asks about safety and health because you’ll be able to point to actual data showing what you’ve done to improve workplace safety.                         

Here are some management-support leading indicators you could measure:

  •  Percentage of supervisors who attend mandatory safety and health training for workers
  •  Number of times each month that top management initiates discussion of a safety and health topic
  • Average score on survey questions related to workers’ perception of management’s safety and health commitment
  •  Number of worker-reported hazards or concerns for which employers initiated corrective action within 48 hours (compared to the total number of such reports)
  • Average time between worker report of a hazard or concern and management acknowledgement of the report
  • Number of safety-related line items in budget and percentage of these fully funded each year
  • Frequency with which preventive equipment maintenance tasks are initiated and completed on schedule
  •  Number of hours passed after an incident before an investigation is started
  •  Number of hours passed after an incident before an investigation is completed
  •  Percentage of incident investigations that include a root cause investigation
  • Percentage of daily/weekly/monthly inspections completed
  • Percentage of inspections that include a follow- up inspection to ensure that the hazard has been controlled
  • Number of trainings provided to workers on hazard recognition and control as compared to worker attendance rates at these trainings
  • Percentage of workers receiving mandatory training on schedule
  • Percentage of incident investigations listing insufficient number of workers trained on how to recognize and report a hazard or near miss as compared to the number of workers that report understanding the training received
  • Percentage of improvement on post-training assessment scores over pre-training assessment score

Tracking this sort of data can help keep SMART goals on track.

SMART goals are easier to measure and meet with the help of EHS Software

Use KPA’s reporting and insights tools to analyze your findings and take corrective and preventative actions. Schedule daily/weekly/monthly email reports to be sent to you and your team including recent reports, pending follow-ups, training status, inspection status, and more.

Give your safety team the tools to easily measure and track learners’ progress and overall retention. Develop your onboarding training program to get your new hires up to speed and productive as quickly as possible. Track training completions and follow-up on overdue training. KPA’s EHS Software can help >>

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