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Better Safety Training
By Thomas L. Zera, C.S.P.
Dec 23, 2016 - 3:04:18 PM

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Providing safety training to employees is an important component of any workplace safety program. OSHA requires employee safety training for a reason: numerous studies have concluded that roughly 85% of all workplace injuries are caused by unsafe acts of employees, Only 15% are caused by unsafe conditions. The most common cause of employees being hurt at work is due to unsafe behavior. The person does something that he shouldn’t.


Unsafe behavior can take many forms: not following instructions, not using the correct tool, taking shortcuts, being distracted, day-dreaming, not receiving adequate instructions or training, rushing, not taking safety precautions, removing a guard, etc.


The purpose of safety training is to inform employees about safety hazards and instruct them on the safe work practices to be followed that will prevent an accident/injury. The best method of accomplishing this is to include safety information when giving job instructions for the first time. In this way, the employee is learning how to do a task correctly and safely at the same time. Safety should not be an after-thought. It should be integrated with how the job is to be done.


An person’s behavior is a product of his attitude. A person cannot behave in a manner that is different from his attitude about his job, his boss, his problems, etc. If a person is not safety conscious and willing to take risks, his attitude is going to be a strong influence on how he does his job. Changing unsafe habits requires changing an employee’s attitude about safety on his job. Safety training should inform but also motivate a safety conscious attitude. Informing a person not to take unsafe actions that save time, makes the job easier and no one is watching is a hard sell. But a necessary one.


All safety training is not equal. Requiring employees to view canned safety videos may not be as successful as a supervisor talking to his personnel, eye to eye. The problem with safety videos is that they are not personnel. And when an employee’s eyes close, so does his mind. What works best is person to person communication. The person informing an employee about safe work practices on his job should be his supervisor. That is the person with the greatest influence on the employee and his attitude about his job and the safe work practices required.


Safety personnel conduct safety training in groups. The topic is often OSHA required and visual aids can help prevent employees from closing their eyes and not paying attention. Requiring some kind of interaction will help keep people attentive; like calling on people or getting a volunteer up to the front to demonstrate something, interject some humor.

OSHA information can be very dull. You need to keep employees involved in the topic or they will tune out.


Conducting safety training will not guarantee that every employee will be safety conscious and always take the time and make the effort to use safety precautions. Half of the information presented may be forgotten by the end of the day. Reinforcement is required. This means reminding employees about the safe work practices and hazards to be avoided.

Ten-minute safety meetings (conducted by supervisors) will help. Posters with in-house pictures will help. Making random safety observations of safe work practices being followed by employees will help (reward good results).


Another aspect of conducting employee safety training, is managing the process. Keeping track of the topics required, which employees have or have not attended, when required training is due, etc. can be difficult. The solution is to let your computer do the tracking for you. Investigate safety software like ZeraWare  that will track required safety training by topic, employee, job title and date. This software even notifies you when required safety training is due, with the topics and the employees who need to attend. There are other software programs available as well. Get a free trial and see which software will meet your needs. It will be a time-saver and prevent an OSHA violation as well.


Thomas L. Zera, C.S.P.

Safety Management Services, Inc.

Williamsville, New York

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