From an employer's perspective, it probably seems reasonable to provide safety training to employees as they are hired or as safety needs change. After all, maintaining a safe work environment can help operations run more smoothly, which is beneficial for the health of employees and the business.
However, well-intentioned employers may run into issues if their training programs do not meet the standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Given the sprawling nature of federal mandates, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly how a training regimen can be effective and meet all necessary requirements. An employer's training program is not simply a plan that is "implemented" and then put on a shelf to collect dust. A training program must be dynamic and evolve with the ever-changing regulatory climate.
According to a memorandum released by OSHA, a major component of having effective training is making sure that the program can be understood by employees. As a result, employers must pay very close attention to the language used to present safety instruction. Federal officials clarify that this is not only a good practice, but it is legally required in all industries. A well-crafted safety program represents a tremendous advantage to a business. However, even the most site-specific and comprehensive plans are rendered meaningless if the material is not regularly presented to employees in a manner whereby those employees understand and take ownership of not only their own safety but their fellow employees as well.
Employers may find themselves with employees who have varying levels of proficiency in the English language. As a result, businesses in the Houston area may face the following situations when trying to present safety training:
- Non-English language speakers: It makes sense that a person who doesn't speak English wouldn't benefit from a training conducted entirely in this language. Federal safety officials don't allow employers to get around requirements by presenting information in an incomprehensible language, so training programs should be adjusted to match workforce demographics.
- Limited command of English: If an employee knows some English, but is more comfortable learning in different language, then it may be important to be very intentional about the vocabulary used.
- Non-literate: Some workers may be able to speak and verbal English, but they might not have a command of the written language. As such, there are some cases in which reading materials may not be appropriate.
Depending on the composition of an employer's staff, creating training modules that are easily understood and comprehensive might be challenging. Keeping this in mind, it may be necessary to turn to an outside resource to help create and implement an effective program. By doing so, businesses may be able to avoid problems stemming from their employees lacking an understanding of work place safety. It is important not only to ensure that employees comprehend an employer's safety program and methodology but that the safety program is sufficiently detailed to address the safety needs of the employer. With respect to OSHA compliance and work place safety, substance and communication go hand in hand.
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "OSHA Training Standards Policy Statement," accessed June 19, 2014