You are a safety manager for several facilities at a major company and you’ve just been tasked with improving employee safety in your facility. Injuries are too high and cost the company too much. There has been too much missed time and you’ve had to bring on and train a bunch of new employees so productivity is down.
In your research on the problem, you’ve used your workers' comp numbers to determine that back injuries are the main culprit and you need to train workers on safe lifting techniques. To do this, you spend time finding relevant ergonomics training videos, putting together a tip sheet to hang on bulletin boards, and you schedule a training session for every shift at each facility. When done right, this prep work can take anywhere from 40 to 200 hours. The time comes and you have to spend time day and night training your staff for several days. You log who attended and then have to spend the next week following up with anyone who missed the training.
Team members seem to digest the safety training. They asked thoughtful questions and now are back out on the floor. But then how do you know that your message was effective or how much of the training team members retained? How can you monitor and ensure that behavior change is present and permanent? Current practice offers a few ways to measure efficacy depending on the amount of time that you are willing to put in.
Level 1: Reactions
Reactions surveying allows you to gauge how much employees liked the information provided and how much they think it will help. This information can be provided immediately following the training via surveys.
Pros: You know immediately whether or not employees may retain the training based on how they felt about it. If employees liked the training or felt that it provided important information, they are more likely to apply it.
Cons: Even if employees liked the training, you don’t know how well it transfers to the floor or how long it will last.
Level 2: Learning
You can test employees how well employees retained the information provided. Pre- and post-training evaluations can test if they know what to do in certain situations based on the information provided. This can also be given immediately following training and you can give periodic assessments to check if team members remember the information.
Pros: You can immediately find out how much information employees really remember. If employees don’t remember the information, they won’t be able to apply it. You can also periodically follow up to see if knowledge is retained and give additional training/reminders as needed.
Cons: You still don’t know to what degree the information is transferring to the floor. Team members may know what they need to do, but circumstances on the floor may prevent it from happening.
Level 3: Behavior
You can observe employees on the floor, and encourage others to do the same, to see if the recommendations of safety training are being followed. 3-4 months of risk assessment and observation are suggested to confirm findings.
Pros: Observing safe lifting behavior allows you to confirm that training has transferred to the actual workday.
Cons: Observation takes time from your work day that could otherwise be applied to different safety issues. This level of results measuring will require many individual hours and long time frames to return meaningful data.
Level 4: Results
The training needs to have had an effect on the bottom line. After all, that was one of the main reasons to conduct safety training in the first place. Measuring return on investment (ROI) is an important step ultimately determining if safety training has been effective. Are less people getting injured than before? Are worker’s compensation costs down? Is productivity up?
Pros: These results put real numbers against the problem. You can isolate around the safety training and ensure that the problems that instigated safety training have been solved.
Cons: ROI is extremely important, but is also slow to determine true results. Best practice is to measure multiple times over months to find out if there has been an effect. Also this model doesn’t not account for leading indicators which show how much at employee risk level.
As you can see, there are two major options when it comes to measuring the results of safety training. The first is to immediately find out if employees understood the training material giving you a tight feedback loop on which materials are sticking. However, the downside is you still don’t know if that knowledge will transfer to the floor or if it will stick. The second is to measure behavior change or other data over time via observation or injury/productivity numbers. This method demonstrates how well the training knowledge is retained and transferred to the floor but requires a tremendous amount of man-hours and utilizes lagging indicators with reviewing the injury numbers.
A Better Way
VIT gives companies the ability to measure behavior change both immediately following safety training and over time in a cost effective manner. The ARC device tracks safe lifting behavior and reports data back as soon as the end of the very first shift. Reporting on a before/after snapshot shows the effectiveness of training or other initiatives as soon as a few days after training. ARC data can be used as a leading indicator to track team member risk levels in periodic risk assessments or consistently over time.
Haptic (vibrational) feedback also ensures that your team members are aware of unsafe positions while on the floor, which reinforces the behavior change started by a training session.
"Employees need to be taught, trained and evaluated systematically", says Mike Parkinson, Senior Medical Director of Health and Productivity for UPMC Health. "Athletes, particularly occupational ones, learn, practice and create 'muscle memory' which insures minimal injuries and peak performance. Repetitive and immediate feedback is key and cements desired physical movements. Watching a video, hoping its being emulated and infrequently observing the employee will likely lead to sub-optimal productivity, increased injury risk and more 'down time'. Intense initial training with reinforcing, continual feedback based on frequent real-time measurement represents a best practice - both in sports and in physical work."
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