Safety Culture Excellence®

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Safety Overtraining

June 18th, 2014

The medical profession is concerned that the overuse of antibiotics is causing strains of bacteria to become resistant and patients to be less receptive to the most-used medications.  The same thing can happen to safety when training is overused or misused.  Workers can tune it out and workplace accidents can become resistant to it.  

Regulatory mandates require a quantity and content of safety training, but more or less neglect the quality of that training.  This has resulted in some of the dullest, most monotonous and least-effective safety training that the world has ever seen.  The use of Computer-Based Training (CBT) has further aggravated the problem.  Required safety training in many organizations is viewed at best as a necessary evil by any worker who has taken it more than two times.  When safety training quits being an asset to the organization, it can damage the effectiveness of other safety-improvement efforts as well.

If this state of safety training were not bad enough, some organizations actually use training or re-training as a punishment.  When a worker is injured or is caught failing to follow a safety rule, they can be sent back to training.  The assumption that the training did not impact worker behavior is valid enough, but the assumption that more of the same, ineffective training will magically work the second time is borderline absurd.  Also, if safety re-training is viewed as a form of punishment, how will that impact the overall perception of the value of safety training?

Organizations need to view safety training as a tool to meet worker needs rather than a painful requirement that can be re-used as punishment.  The opportunities for good quality safety to improve safety performance has been demonstrated.  It is time to use it to its full potential instead of going through the motions!
-Terry L. Mathis

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Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2010, 2011 and 2012-2013. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence, 2013, WILEY.

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