As the workforce undergoes a significant shift beyond the conventional office spaces, deskless workers in high-risk environments confront distinct challenges and perils. These employees, who operate in fields ranging from construction and manufacturing to logistics and healthcare, encounter potential hazards that significantly differ from those found in a more typical office setting. Therefore, specialized safety training programs are not just beneficial; they are crucial for mitigating risks and ensuring that employees return home safely every day.
In this article, we will walk you through how to develop an effective safety training program that not only complies with legal standards but also fosters a culture of safety among deskless workers.
Unique Challenges of Deskless Workers
Deskless workers often operate in dynamic environments where the potential for accidents is elevated. Here are some unique challenges they face:
- Unpredictable Environments: Unlike office workers who operate in controlled environments, deskless workers may have to adapt to changing weather conditions, especially in industries like construction or agriculture.
- Use of Heavy Machinery: Many deskless workers, especially in manufacturing and construction sectors, work with heavy machinery. A slight error can lead to devastating consequences.
- Physical Strain: Constant movement, lifting heavy objects, or staying in uncomfortable positions for extended periods can cause physical strain.
- Exposure to Harmful Substances: Workers in sectors like healthcare, manufacturing, or chemical industries often come in contact with hazardous materials that can pose health risks.
- Irregular Hours: Many deskless professionals, such as those in healthcare or logistics, work in shifts which can disrupt their biological clocks, leading to fatigue and decreased alertness.
The Need for Specialized Safety Training
High-risk industries carry an inherent degree of danger, requiring employees to be constantly aware of their surroundings and the potential risks posed by their work environment. As per data from the National Safety Council in 2021, distinct metrics placed these four industries at the forefront of the most perilous:
- Construction – topped the list for the highest number of fatal incidents in the workplace.
- Education and Health Services – noted for the highest instances of nonfatal injuries and illnesses compelling time off work.
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting – recorded the most alarming mortality rate, standardized per 100,000 workers.
- Transportation and Warehousing – registered the utmost rate of injuries and illnesses necessitating absence from work, calculated per 10,000 employees.
Traditional safety protocols, while foundational, are often insufficient to address the specific hazards these workers face. Therefore, specialized training programs must be developed with a deep understanding of the particular challenges of each work environment. These programs should offer comprehensive education on potential dangers, use of protective equipment, adherence to safety protocols, and immediate response to unforeseen incidents.
7 Steps to Developing a Safety Training Program for Your Deskless Workers
1. Understand the Unique Risks and Needs
First, it’s crucial to identify the specific hazards your deskless workers face. Conducting a job hazard analysis (JHA) can help in recognizing potential risks in different environments, whether they’re related to heavy machinery, environmental factors, ergonomic challenges, or customer interactions. Engage with employees directly to understand their concerns and insights, as they can provide invaluable feedback based on firsthand experiences.
2. Establish Clear Safety Protocols and Objectives
With a thorough understanding of the hazards, establish clear safety protocols. These guidelines should cover procedures for common tasks, strategies for hazard mitigation, and steps for handling emergency situations. Ensure these protocols meet industry regulations and standards to comply with legal obligations. Additionally, set measurable safety objectives that align with broader organizational goals to track the program’s success and areas for improvement.
3. Embrace Technology in Safety Training
Innovative technologies have introduced new methodologies in safety training, making it more interactive, understandable, and retainable. Virtual reality (VR), for instance, offers immersive training experiences where deskless workers can simulate high-risk tasks and learn to navigate potential hazards in a controlled, virtual space. This hands-on approach under professional supervision allows workers to experience true-to-life scenarios without the actual risks involved.
Mobile learning platforms have also emerged as a crucial technology for enhancing safety training, particularly for deskless workers who require immediate access to information. These online systems facilitate the creation, management, and delivery of educational content, enabling access to real-time data, instant safety alerts, and continuous updates on safety protocols and procedures. They support efficient, cost-effective training methods, reaching more learners while allowing for comprehensive tracking of progress and performance.
Additionally, these platforms enrich the learning experience by integrating interactive components like quizzes, videos, simulations, and games to improve retention and engagement. They are especially conducive to strategies like blended learning, merging online and in-person instruction, and microlearning, which presents information in digestible, focused segments. This multifaceted approach not only ensures workers are well-versed in current safety measures but also accommodates diverse learning styles and paces.
Albert is a mobile training solution that helps managers efficiently train their deskless employees by allowing them to provide just-in-time learning and need-based training via their mobile devices.
4. Implement Training in Phases
A phased approach ensures workers understand and retain essential safety principles without feeling overwhelmed. Begin with an onboarding phase for new employees, covering fundamental safety protocols. Follow this with specialized training phases that delve into job-specific scenarios and advanced safety techniques. Regular refresher courses should also be scheduled to reinforce key concepts and introduce updated safety protocols.
5. Encourage a Culture of Safety
Specialized training is highly effective when reinforced by a strong organizational safety culture. Management at all levels should emphasize that safety is a top priority, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to maintaining and enhancing safety measures. Encouraging open communication allows for immediate reporting and swift response to hazards, helping prevent accidents before they happen.
Furthermore, recognizing and rewarding adherence to safety protocols motivates employees to take ownership of their own and their colleagues’ safety. Peer-to-peer education and mentoring can also foster a community of accountability and shared responsibility.
6. Continuous Evaluation and Improvement
The effectiveness of safety training programs should not rely on static content and one-time sessions. Instead, these programs must be dynamic, evolving based on regular feedback, assessments, and adaptation to new safety standards and regulations. By conducting routine evaluations and incident analyses, companies can identify gaps in current safety training and make necessary adjustments. This not only ensures compliance with industry standards but also demonstrates to employees that their safety is of paramount importance.
7. Leverage Technology for Real-Time Communication
Invest in communication tools that connect deskless workers with immediate resources, especially in emergency situations. Apps and devices that provide real-time updates on safety hazards, quick access to manuals or guidelines, and instant communication with safety officers can be life-saving.
Deskless workers in high-risk environments deserve comprehensive, specialized safety training programs that consider the unique challenges of their roles. By integrating modern technology and fostering a robust safety culture, companies can significantly reduce workplace incidents and safeguard their most valuable asset: their employees. As workplace dynamics and risks continue to evolve, so too must the methodologies we employ to ensure every worker is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to protect themselves and their colleagues.
Choose from our pre-made courses to meet your team’s specific needs in safety training. Our modules provide practical solutions to ensure a safer workplace. Learn more about workplace safety and health.