How to launch an effective EHS awareness training program

Training is an essential component of an overall effective environmental, health, and safety (EHS) program.

EHS Awareness Training

Blog » How to launch an effective EHS awareness training program

How to get started

Training is an important tool for informing workers about workplace potential hazards and controls so they can work safely and be more productive. Knowledge and awareness ensure that everyone plays a key role in developing, implementing, and improving the program.

Foundational components of an effective EHS awareness training program

Make sure you provide training to all workers at your facility, including contractors, subcontractors, and temporary workers. The program begins with training on:

  • EHS policies, goals, and procedures of the facility
  • Functions of the EHS program
  • Whom to contact with questions or concerns about the program (including contact information)
  • Procedures for reporting hazards, injuries, illnesses, and near misses
  • What to do in an emergency: release, spill, fire, terrorist threats, etc.
  • Your employer’s responsibilities under the program
  • Workers’ rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)

You must provide workers with information on all known environmental, safety, and health hazards of the workplace and the controls for those hazards. Your employees need to be involved in identifying potential hazards throughout the facility. Your workers have a hands-on understanding of the workplace, which is invaluable in finding potential hazards. Involving your workers in the entire EHS program development process ensures a quality training program and will help workers take ownership of their responsibilities.

Make sure the workers understand the training. That means providing the training in the language(s) and at literacy levels that each worker can understand.

Include as part of your training, that all workers have the right to report incidents, hazards, and EHS concerns and to fully participate in the program without fear of reprisal.

Safety Awareness Training in Field

Identify roles in the program

Everyone in your workplace is responsible for working towards EHS excellence. It is a good idea to provide designated workers with specific training that will allow them to assume a leadership role in EHS programs.

  • Train on procedures for responding to emergency releases and spills, workers’ reports of injuries, illnesses, and incidents, including ways to avoid discouraging the reporting of incidents. Reporting an incident helps find the cause and prevent future incidents.
  • Instruct the workers on the fundamental concepts and techniques for recognizing hazards and methods of controlling them, including the hierarchy of controls:
    • Elimination
    • Substitution
    • Engineering controls
    • Administrative controls
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Train the workers on incident investigation techniques, including root cause analysis. Root cause analysis is very important in finding the fundamental cause of an incident and not just contributing factors.

Specific roles training

  • Instruct workers assigned specific roles within the EHS program on how they should carry out those responsibilities, including:
    • Hazard recognition and controls
    • Participation in incident investigations
    • Program evaluation and improvement
  • Provide opportunities for workers to ask questions and provide feedback during and after the training.
  • As the program evolves, institute a more formal process for determining the training needs of workers responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the program.

Hazard identification and controls

It’s important for workers to have an understanding of hazard recognition and control.

  • Train workers on techniques for identifying hazards, such as conducting a job hazard analysis.
  • Train workers to be able to recognize the hazards they may encounter in their own jobs, as well as more general work-related hazards.
  • Instruct workers on concepts and techniques for controlling hazards, including the hierarchy of controls and their importance.
  • Train workers on the proper use of safe work practices and administrative controls.
  • Train workers on when and how to wear required PPE.
  • Provide additional training, as needed, when a change in equipment, processes, materials, or work organization could increase hazards, and whenever a worker is assigned a new job task.
Health and hygiene awareness training in the field

Program evaluation and improvement

The program doesn’t end with establishing it and training workers. The EHS training program should be evaluated initially, to ensure it’s being implemented effectively. After that, it should be evaluated periodically, and at least annually. Now, you can step back and assess what is working and what is not, and whether it is on track to meet your goals.

Program evaluation and improvement include:

  • Establishing, reporting, and tracking goals to see if the training program is working. Do all workers understand their safe work practices?
  • Providing ways for your workers to participate in evaluating and improving the training.

Monitor progress

The first step in monitoring is to define indicators that will help track performance and progress.

Both lagging and leading indicators should be used. Lagging indicators generally track workplace and worker exposures, as well as injuries that have already occurred. Leading indicators track how well various aspects of the program have been implemented—how effective is the training in reducing release and spill incidents and injuries and illnesses.

Track lagging indicators, such as:

  • Number and severity of injuries and illnesses
  • Workers’ compensation data
  • Number of spills or releases

Track leading indicators, such as:

  • Level of worker participation in the training program activities
  • Number of employee safety or training suggestions
  • Number of hazardous spills, near misses, and first aid incidents reported
  • Amount of time to respond to reports
  • Number of workers who have completed the required training
  • Worker opinions about the effectiveness of the program

After analyzing the performance indicators and evaluating progress, share your results with the workers and invite their input on how to further improve the program.

Correct shortcomings and identify opportunities

Whenever a problem is identified in any part of the EHS training awareness program you—in coordination with all workers—should take prompt action to correct the problem and prevent its recurrence.

Determine whether your performance indicators and goals are still relevant and, if not, how you could change them to more effectively drive improvements in the workplace towards EHS excellence.

These program evaluation and improvement steps are effective for evaluating the success of any of your existing EHS programs, from your stormwater management to your hazard communication program.

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