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Work Safety Training Programs 101

By Bryan McWhorter
Published: September 19, 2019
Key Takeaways

Proper documentation and record-keeping of all employee training is required for proof of compliance.

Caption: Oil rig worker Source: Hybrid Images / iStock

If you ever have the misfortune of an OSHA investigator showing up to perform an accident investigation at your workplace, one of their first questions will be, “Did the employee receive adequate training to do the job?”

That's why it's important to perform and document all necessary safety training.

Training is an important component of a health and safety management program. Employee safety training is a leading indicator for safety (and a lack of safety training is a leading indicator for accidents). Your safety training program is evidence to your commitment to workplace safety.


(Learn more in 12 Things to Do During an OSHA Investigation.)

Blueprint for Safety

A structured safety training program is an integral part of your blueprint for creating a safe work environment. Management confidence in workplace safety will go up as employees gain the knowledge, they need to work safely.

All work safety programs begin with a safety policy. This is your statement of commitment to worker health and safety. The second component is a thorough hazard assessment of the work environment and all work activities. None of these matter, however, without acting next with effective employee training.

Workplace safety management, then, goes as follows:

  1. Create a safety policy
  2. Perform a thorough hazard assessment
  3. Develop employee training programs based on identified hazards
  4. Incident investigation and reporting
  5. Safety program evaluation and continuous improvement

OSHA regulations require employees to be trained on all hazards to health and safety that they may be exposed to in the work environment.

(Learn about The 6 Key Elements of an Effective Safety Program.)

Structured Employee Safety Training Programs

Safety professionals and managers shouldn't have to worry about inadequate safety training programs.

Develop a safety training program that you are confident in. A well-organized safety training program boosts the confidence of all stakeholders. It will also be difficult to launch any safety initiatives without the foundation of health and safety training.

Here are the basics you need in place.


Up-to-Date Hazard Assessments

Before we start giving safety training, we need to identify all hazards.

When new hazards are introduced into the work environment (such as new chemicals, processes, or equipment), training must be performed preceding exposure to the hazard. We can’t expect employees to follow safety rules without understanding the hazards and risks to which they are exposed. Hazards and risks are the “why” for training.

(Find out How to Conduct a Risk Assessment.)

List All Required Health and Safety Training

Based on identified hazards and government agency regulations, list all the health and safety training your employees will need. This is the first step towards boosting your confidence that your health and safety training is adequate.

There is software programs designed for managing workplace health and safety training, or you can simply create a list with any software you're comfortable with.

Visit OSHA's Website

If you’re not sure what training is required, check the OSHA website. They provide information, training, and answer questions to help you.

There may be training required based on the industry you're in. The training requirements contained in OSHA’s standards are organized into five categories:

  • General Industry
  • Maritime
  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Federal Employee Programs

I have visited with OSHA representatives, and they have always been helpful. It is better to view them as a resource than as a watchdog.

Make a Training Calendar

Set times and “triggers” for all health and safety training. Some training will need to be done annually such as awareness training for bloodborne pathogens, LOTO, hazardous materials, and emergency response. Some training may be triggered by an event like a personnel change, new process, new chemical, or new equipment.

License Programs

Some safety training requires licenses or certifications, such as driving a forklift, operating a crane, performing lockout tag out, and confined space entry. These training programs require tracking for license expiration and renewal.

You will also need to monitor these operations regularly to verify the effectiveness of the training and its effects on safety.

(Find out What Your Confined Space Safety Program Needs to Cover.)

Documentation and Record-Keeping

Once again, there is plenty of health and safety software designed to help you manage and record your safety training. Use whatever you're comfortable with. As a safety coordinator and trainer for different companies, I used Microsoft Office.

Documentation verifies you have performed required training. You will also need documented training for programs such as hearing conservation, wearing respirators, and personal fall restraint systems.

Just remember, if a hazard and risk are identified, follow OSHA's regulations for appropriate safety training.

(Learn more about The Dangers of Inadequate Record-Keeping for Contractor Management.)

Documentation should include:

  • Safety topic and training materials
  • A roster of all attendees (including time and date)
  • Copies of any tests used as verification of effectiveness
  • Record evaluations of activities and hands-on training if needed (hands-on training and evaluation is needed for activities such as operating a crane, forklift operation, and LOTO)
  • Track licenses and certifications for renewals as needed

Safety Networks

Don't take chances when it comes to safety training. Give yourself the peace of mind that comes from knowing your safety training program is in place and adequate. Use third-party auditors and reach out to safety colleagues. We safety professionals love helping each other. Develop a safety network instead of going it alone and having to reinvent the wheel. Constantly review and improve your health and safety training program.

Without a structured health and safety training program in place, your safety blueprint is incomplete, and you may end up being visited by OSHA – as the watchdog this time, not a resource.


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Written by Bryan McWhorter | Lead Safety Advisor, Author, Writer, Speaker

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Bryan McWhorter is a safety professional with eight years of experience in driving and teaching safety. Bryan gained his knowledge and experience as the safety officer and Senior Trainer for Philips Lighting. Philips is a strong health and well-being company that promotes a safety first culture.

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