Some organisations that have continued with traditional face-to-face safety induction training, which many trainers will tell you is better than computer based training, have been found wanting after incident investigations or external audits. So what went wrong?
The three common issues that arise with face-to-face induction training, particularly for large, or geographically dispersed businesses include:
- New workers commencing work before induction training has been completed;
- Variation in presentation or emphasis of induction material;
- Lack of evidence to prove the person understood the training.
The first issue is the ever present temptation to delay the full induction training in busy times or when training staff are not available. Supervisors sometimes rationalise the circumstances and allow new staff to commence tasks which they believe are safe and within their capacity e.g. common sense will surely protect them?
“Human based systems” tend to be more prone to individuals making judgements, which at the time may seem reasonable, but later under the scrutiny of investigations exposes the managers and organisation to allegations of negligence.
The key thing computer based systems are good at is not proceeding or granting authorisations until all prerequisite requirements are satisfied. For example, some best practice organisations electronically link the issuance of employee (& contractor) passes and access keys to full satisfactory completion of the induction process, leaving no room for individual supervisors to be influenced by work pressure and to take short cuts in the process.
A topic rarely discussed, but another “pet subject” at Safety Action is the variability of presentation styles in organisations which focus on paperwork processes, to the point that they don’t seem to care about the quality of the training, as long as the records show the induction was done.
Students of safety culture will know that “how” you do something is often more important than “what” you do. So it is a fair comment t to say “an electronic induction training system might not convey our real commitment and approach to safety”. However, we have found a bigger risk (than the impersonal online induction systems) is disinterested or disenchanted supervisors.
Imagine the effect on a group of new starters if the induction trainer appears in the room and with the mono-tone of someone who has totally given up say something like “there is a lot of paperwork and rules here, but don’t worry your co-workers will show you what rules you have to follow, so don’t ask too many questions and we can all get out of here quickly”. If any induction training even came close to this it would be devastating! So how can you be certain that none of your supervisors or trainers have become disenchanted, or had an argument with their manager and are now hostile to the organisation? Online systems are not as good as positive face-to-face trainers, but they are better and far more consistent at conveying important information.
The third issue that arises with many human based systems is the forgetfulness of individuals, and if the paperwork was not completed on day one, it seems to be less important on following days. Online systems methodically competency test at every step of the process and even better prepare; competency certificates, full training reports and summary statistics for executives to accurately monitor the process.