Health and Safety

The Costs of Noncompliance: How to Develop an Effective Health and Safety Training Program  

April 16, 2024

Developing Effective Health and Safety Training Programs

Occupational health and safety legislation requires employers to do everything reasonable to protect workers, and many jurisdictions explicitly include training in this requirement. However, health and safety training programs can be expensive. It involves not just general training but also job-specific and site-specific sessions, regular updates, and refreshers. In too many cases, workers get a general overview when they join the organization, and then that’s it. That might meet the letter of the legislative requirement, but even so, would it meet the spirit? 

That’s where developing an effective health and safety training program comes in. It’s not just another box to tick but an essential part of every job. Ongoing training helps keep safety practices top of mind, preventing complacency and creating a culture of safety in an organization. What’s more, investing in comprehensive health and safety training programs mitigates the costs of noncompliance.  

What are the hidden costs of noncompliance?  

Neglecting health and safety training has many hidden costs. When employees miss work because of health and safety concerns, whether it’s a protected leave due to an injury or missing shifts to avoid unaddressed workplace harassment, the entire organization suffers from their missing work. Even if you re-assign their duties to someone else, all you’ve done is shift which tasks go unperformed. If you hire additional workers or pay for overtime to make up for the missing employee, that costs money.  

Poor health and safety can lead to reputational damage, too. It’s hard to quantify, but it can have a serious effect on an employer. Big incidents might make national news, casting a shadow over an employer, but even small incidents hurt. Employees talk to friends, family, and their professional networks about their jobs. If an employer neglects health and safety training and workers feel unsafe, people will hear about it. An employer with a poor reputation—especially for health and safety—has to work harder (and spend more) to attract great talent. 

You’ve probably guessed by now that training goes way beyond just meeting compliance requirements, right? However, implementing and maintaining a health and safety training program can be daunting. Keep reading for some simple tips on how to develop an effective health and safety training program and cut down those hidden costs along the way.

Tips for developing effective health and safety training  

1. Gather data 

Improving health and safety outcomes requires appropriate knowledge. Organizations generate data constantly, but might not even know what they have. Our Performance Management tool lets employers gather updates from their workers—regular short surveys about how workers feel, any concerns they have, and so on. Asking employees about health and safety concerns both gathers valuable information and reinforces the importance of their wellbeing. Even if employees don’t always recognize it, health and safety issues affect their mood and performance at work. Employees who don’t feel safe in the workplace—physically or mentally—are more likely to miss shifts, avoid tasks, or seek employment elsewhere.  

You also should make the most of incident reports to avoid the costs of noncompliance. Use a Risk Evaluation Form to reveal patterns in hazard assessments, complaints, work refusals, and injuries. Identify whether certain equipment, departments, or tasks appear disproportionately in reports. Look for demographic trends, too. New and young workers are generally at higher risk than experienced colleagues, but there might be other patterns unique to your workplace. If your workforce includes many non-native English speakers, they may struggle to understand health and safety instructions in English, potentially leading to procedural errors, and impacting your bottom line. Just as you would address a health and safety incident, your response should aim to identify and resolve the root cause—in this case, inadequate training on health and safety issues.

2. Assess knowledge 

Every workplace’s needs are unique. So every workplace’s health and safety training program will be too, even if the basics are the same. No one knows your workplace better than you. Use our Surveys and Forms tool to build custom pulse-check surveys to test employee knowledge. These don’t have to be onerous (and shouldn’t be). A single question about job-specific health and safety issues can give you some insight into employee knowledge.

Employees should understand the hazards specific to their job, worksite, and tasks. If their survey responses don’t match what you expect, you know where to direct your training efforts. When you don’t know the scope of a problem, you can’t take preventive action. Fixing health and safety issues early is more cost-effective than just responding to incidents. By keeping safety at the forefront of employees’ minds using training will mean they’re more likely to report problems immediately. The better the training, the better the results. 

3. Implement training 

For an effective health and safety training program to succeed, ongoing training is crucial. It helps embed a culture of safety into workers’ daily routines, making it an integral part of their experience. When training only happens on special occasions, workers can mistake it as something distinct from their regular duties, rather than understanding it as a core responsibility.

You can find simple ways to incorporate effective health and safety training into workdays: brief weekly stand-up meetings for reminders, periodic PPE refreshers, and even implementing a mentoring program can help. Encourage senior employees to train new hires, providing valuable experience for both parties. (Check out our blog to learn more about the importance of training old and new employees.) Additionally, implementing training into everyday work also means it no longer feels like an extra cost or something that distracts employees from their “real” work. Training is real work, and critical to doing everything else safely. 

4. Communicate importance 

Complacency is one of the biggest obstacles to an effective health and safety training program. Employees at all levels, from frontline workers to senior management, can become inured to health and safety. If nothing has happened in a while, strict controls seem more like an impediment than a necessary feature. A Health and Safety Policy outlines everyone’s responsibilities: from employers providing information and instruction to employees complying with procedures. Ongoing communication, such as keeping important and required policies posted prominently in the workplace, helps keep the importance of health and safety fresh and vivid for employees. It reminds them that working safely is a core responsibility of their job, regardless of their title or specific duties. 

Communicating importance requires action in addition to words. You should back up your commitment to health and safety by using a clear Progressive Discipline Policy. Follow the steps when employees knowingly disregard their duty. All the training in the world can’t protect workers if they don’t take it seriously. While discipline is no one’s first choice as a response to problems, its mere presence informs workers that health and safety should matter to them as much as to you. Working safely should become habitual to employees, a practice they don’t just prioritize but follow instinctively. 

Final thoughts 

Health and safety are complex topics, and an effective training program is a critical part of helping everyone in the workplace meet their responsibilities. Employers have the power to shape the workplace, and the obligation to do everything reasonable to make it safe. When employers understand the hazards in the workplace and have the knowledge to mitigate them, they help employees fulfil their own obligations to work safely and be mindful of danger.  

Avoid hidden costs with HRdownloads’ health and safety training  

Offering the right health and safety training at the right time can mean the difference between a worker going home safely or not – and that’s worth any price. 

At HRdownloads, we offer HR Software, HR Content, HR Compliance, and HR support, including hundreds of online training courses for businesses, with a flexible and accessible platform towards skill enhancement in health and safety, human rights, customer service, cybersecurity, and much more. 

Book a free demo at a time that fits your schedule. Our HR experts will provide a free, no-obligation quote tailored to your HR needs in as little as one business day.

Book a free demo at a time that fits your schedule. Our HR experts will provide a free, no-obligation quote tailored to your HR needs in as little as one business day.