Workplace safety training is designed to educate employees about potential hazards in their work environment. These courses help equip the workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to minimize risks, prevent accidents, and maintain a secure workplace. Although construction and manual labor jobs are the most obvious targets of such courses, office workers need safety training in the workplace too.
Besides helping ensure the safety in the workplace, providing training for your workforce may be mandated and regulated by the law. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are main factors to consider, apart from local state regulations.
What Safety Training in the Workplace Involves
Safety training covers a wide range of topics typically relevant to a business’s specific industry and job roles—and is one major component for effective employee management. Learn more about it as a whole in our in-depth guide to workplace safety.
Courses on safety include, but are not limited to:
- Identifying and assessing potential hazards
- Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Emergency response procedures
- Ergonomics and injury prevention
- Hazardous materials handling and communication
- Fire safety and prevention
- Electrical safety
- Machine operation and maintenance
Federal or state agencies will mandate some topics and training—we elaborate this below in the Legal Considerations & Implications section. Depending on the industry in which you operate, you may be required to provide more specific and detailed training to employees.
During these sessions, your employees must be made to understand their roles and responsibilities for maintaining a safe work environment. This would typically include:
- Actively participate in training sessions
- Comply with established safety policies and procedures
- Report any potential hazards or unsafe conditions to management
- Use PPE and other equipment correctly
- Practice good housekeeping and maintain a clean and organized work area
Essential Workplace Safety Training Topics
Here is a list of some of the most important topics to include in your safety training in the workplace program.
Emergency procedures should prepare employees for potential accidents, natural disasters, fire, and other life-threatening circumstances in the workplace. Employees need to know what to do during such events, who to call, and how to evacuate safely and quickly.
Hazardous chemicals and materials are present in many workplace environments. Employees must understand the risks associated with exposure to such chemicals and be trained accordingly. The training should cover the use of safe handling procedures, the importance of PPE, labeling, and chemical inventories.
Personal protective equipment is essential in reducing workplace hazards. The training should cover how to select, use, and maintain PPE, such as gloves, goggles, respirators, and hard hats.
Ergonomics and Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders
Ergonomic safety involves preventing discomfort and injuries related to poor posture, awkward movements, and heavy lifting, which can lead to Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). Employees should be trained on how to set up their workstations properly, adjust their chairs and monitor, and perform exercises to relieve tension.
Fire Safety and Prevention
Fire safety training helps employees prepare for emergencies, identify fire risks, and how to prevent fires from occurring. The training should cover fire prevention methods and safe evacuation procedures.
Electrical safety training should cover the proper use and handling of electrical equipment, including proper grounding, identifying electrical hazards, and safe work practices to avoid electrical shocks and electrocution.
Machine Guarding and Lockout Procedures
Machine guarding and lockout procedures are crucial in protecting employees from equipment-related hazards, like cuts, burns, and fractures. The training should cover how to use equipment safely, proper maintenance, and lockout procedures when repairing or modifying equipment.
Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention
Workplace violence and harassment can cause emotional and physical harm to employees. The training should cover how to recognize, report, and prevent incidents of workplace violence, harassment, and discrimination.
First Aid and CPR
Accidents and injuries happen even in the safest workplaces. First Aid and CPR training are essential in providing employees with the skills and knowledge to respond to medical emergencies until help arrives.
Heat-related Illnesses and Prevention
Heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke are all potentially serious medical conditions that employees working in hot environments can experience. Heat-related illnesses and their prevention should be covered in safety training, especially for outdoor workers.
Chemical Spills and Cleanup Procedures
The handling of hazardous chemicals is necessary in many workplaces, and the risk of accidental spills is ever-present. Safety training on how to clean up chemicals and handle them properly is invaluable in protecting employees and preventing chemical exposures.
Confined Space Entry Procedures
Working in enclosed spaces can result in serious hazards, including lack of oxygen, toxic substances, and fire hazards. Confined space training should cover the safety equipment, permits, proper ventilation, emergency procedures, and rescue methods specific to that environment.
Safe Lifting Practices
Lifting heavy objects is one of the leading causes of workplace injuries. Training on proper lifting techniques and equipment use can prevent injuries related to back strains, sprains, and muscle injuries.
Safe Driving Habits
Driving accidents make up a significant number of workplace injuries. Safe driving habits training can help reduce the number of accidents and injuries, and cover topics such as vehicle inspection, defensive driving techniques, and driver distraction avoidance.
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program provided by employers to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. It is essential to include discussions on workers’ compensation in a comprehensive workplace safety training program. During the training program, employees need to learn the details of their coverage so they are aware of their rights and what their employer will provide in the event of an injury.
If an employee suffers an injury on the job, workers’ compensation covers their medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages. Workers have a right to file a compensation claim, and employers are required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover these costs. Employees should know how to file a workers’ compensation claim, the timeline required, and the documentation necessary to receive the benefits. They should also understand that there is a protocol for filing such claims, which may vary by jurisdiction.
Legal Considerations for Workplace Safety Training
To comply with federal and state laws, employers need to design their training programs according to the legal standards, which include elements such as:
- Written safety programs outlining safety practices and policies within the organization
- A record-keeping system that documents the training sessions and their content, including a signed acknowledgement from each participant
- Training materials developed by authorized personnel to ensure compliance
- Regular review and update of the training program material
Failing to comply with these guidelines may involve hefty consequences, such as costly fines and legal liability issues.
Not every business will be subject to every federal or state requirement. However, it’s prudent to consider your company’s future growth as you may be required to follow some of these regulations as you add employees.
Click through the tabs below for three major areas of compliance:
Compliance Note: Keep in mind that some states have requirements and regulations that go beyond the federal requirements listed here. Make sure you understand your local regulations and adhere to them, including mandatory requirements for annual training.
Why & When Small Businesses Need to Implement Safety Training
Small businesses, just like larger organizations, must prioritize workplace safety to protect their employees and assets. Implementing safety training in the workplace programs can help small businesses:
- Reduce the risk of accidents and injuries
- Minimize downtime and associated costs
- Improve employee morale and retention
- Comply with government regulations and avoid penalties
- Enhance their reputation as a responsible employer
Given these benefits, small businesses should implement these programs as soon as possible. While you may not have had a need for it yet and may not operate in a high-risk environment, implementing a workplace safety training program can ensure compliance with regulations and reduce potential risks and costs associated with workplace accidents.
You should also make sure you’re training employees on workplace safety at the following intervals:
- At the time of hire: New employees should receive an orientation on general safety policies and job-specific safety procedures.
- Annually: Refresher training should be conducted at least once a year to ensure employees stay up-to-date with safety practices and any changes in regulations.
- As needed: Depending on industry and job roles, more frequent training may be required to address specific hazards or when new equipment or procedures are introduced.
Workplace safety isn’t industry-specific. Overexertion and bodily reaction is the second most common workplace injury and is seen even in “safe” desk jobs. Learn more about these in our article on the most common workplace injuries as well as how safety affects your industry in our collation of the top workplace injury statistics.
Best Practices for Implementing Workplace Safety Training Programs
Here are some best practices to ensure that the training program is effective and meets the needs of the workforce.
Combining online and in-person training can enhance the learning experience for employees, making it more accessible and cost-effective. Online training modules can deliver standardized training to multiple employees simultaneously, while in-person training can be done on-site, addressing specific hazards, equipment use, and customized policies.
Companies can use this approach to offer both initial and refresher training programs, as each has its advantages.
Different job roles and industries face unique risks and hazards. Thus, it is essential to tailor safety training to specific roles and workplaces to minimize mistakes, accidents, and injuries. For instance, a scientist working in a lab with toxic chemicals may require specific training on chemical spills, disposal, and clean-up procedures, while an employee that works with heavy equipment will be better served with training focused on safe usage of machinery.
Interactive training is more engaging and easier to remember than passive training methods, such as slides and lectures. Using interactive activities, such as simulations, video scenarios, and case studies, makes the training practical, engaging, and effective in reinforcing the training needs. Employees are more likely to remember the information if they have hands-on experience of what they’ve learned.
Regulations and industry standards are continually evolving, which means they require a current and up-to-date training program. Regularly updating training materials reflects the current trends, and this ensures that employees know the latest safety regulations.
High-risk businesses, such as those in construction or the sciences, are continually inventing new ways to boost safety with new equipment. Therefore, training should be updated regularly so that workers know how to use them without posing any danger.
Assessments and feedback are an important part of any safety training program. It measures the effectiveness of the training program, and the feedback helps personalize training to suit employee needs. Assessments should be provided to test the employees’ knowledge of the subject, while feedback can be given through suggestion boxes, anonymous reports, and surveys.
Encouraging a culture of safety requires a shared commitment to safety and a willingness to communicate about potential safety concerns. This involves building an environment where all workers feel comfortable reporting safety mishaps in the workplace without fear of retaliation. Open communication can be encouraged by engaging employees in discussions and asking for feedback.
Workplace safety training is essential in creating a safe work environment for employees—and consequently leads to improved morale, productivity, and retention. Implementing proper training programs allows employers to comply with regulations, adapt to changing technologies, and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.