What metric should I track to make sure my safety training programs are effective?

Q:

What metric should I track to make sure my safety training programs are effective?

A:

Determining effectiveness is always a tough nut to crack. In a perfect world, every worker follows safety protocols, no one ever gets injured, and everyone is happy and healthy. But reality speaks a different language, and if we can't reach that goal yet, we have to ask ourselves what, exactly, does "effective" mean?

There are two questions that will help us find an answer. One will always be “How do I measure effectiveness?” The other should be “What should effectiveness look like for my company?”

To answer the first question, you can follow the model established by Donald Kirkpatrick. Using Kirkpatrick's Four-Level Training Evaluation Model you’ll measure effectiveness by:

  • Observing trainee reaction to the training (good, bad, or indifferent)
  • Measuring learning, including how effectively they’ve acquired the knowledge and how effectively they can show that learning in various ways
  • Measuring trainee behavior, especially how it has changed with regard to the issues dealt with in the training session
  • Observing and measuring outcomes, which will vary depending on your what your organization is hoping to achieve with the training program

If this feels overly broad, you’re right. It is. But that’s the point. Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model is designed to be adjusted and defined based on what your company is looking for. That's where answering the second question comes in.

Every company is going to have different goals, so when trying to determine the best safety metrics to track, your starting point should be the current data you have and identifying where you see the most need for improvement. And depending on the outcomes you’re looking for, the metric you focus on may look vastly different than what’s in focus at another company.

Let’s look at an example. Say your company has been experiencing an uptick in work-related illness. You’ve identified the problem as workers growing lax when it comes to wearing masks around dangerous, but not deadly chemicals. Your next safety training program is certainly going to focus on the importance of wearing safety equipment when handling potentially toxic material, and without a doubt, you’ll be spending some time trying to see if there’s an identifiable decrease in work-related illnesses. In this case, the metric you measured was a very specific outcome.

That won't be everyone's problem, and it might not even be yours. Every company will have a different issue to deal with, so they'll be tracking something different. Thankfully, modern safety management solutions are able to be fine-tuned to track just about any health and safety metric.

Whatever metric you choose to measure, what matters is that you use your data to get a clear picture of the situation before the training and after the training. If outcomes improve after the training has been delivered, it's a good sign that it was effective. If the problem you're tracking persists or gets worse, then you might need a new approach.

To learn about other metrics you should add to your monthly safety reports, check out 5 Safety Metrics You Need to Start Tracking.

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Written by Adrian Bartha
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Adrian Bartha is the CEO of eCompliance, which he joined in 2012 after experiencing first-hand how a workplace incident affected a power and utilities company which he led as a member of the Board of Directors. Previously, Adrian was an investment professional for a $5 billion dollar private equity firm investing in energy, construction, and transportation infrastructure companies across North America. When Adrian is out of the office, he can be found riding his futuristic motorcycle and wearing his RoboCop helmet.   Full Bio