Learning the Safety Ropes: Resources for developing education and training programs

Published On
Oct 15, 2021

Effective education and training are paramount in creating a safe work environment and establishing a safety culture. However, employers don’t always have the knowledge or familiarity with specific tools, equipment or practices to provide the best possible information for employees to do their jobs safely. Fortunately, there are many resources for developing education and training programs on unfamiliar topics.

Employers can turn to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a variety of training resources on a range of topics. Additionally, the agency can provide minimum safety requirements on topics already addressed in existing regulations. Many state OSHA programs can provide similar information and resources. If OSHA is unable to help, the agency will likely point employers in the right direction.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has countless education and training tools available on its website. NIOSH provides workplace safety and health guides on topics ranging from aerosols and electrical safety to green construction and highway safety work zones, and everything in between. The agency can also direct you to their sources in developing these guides.

The Electrical Training Alliance in Bowie, Md., is another resource for electrical workers.

“Among the numerous training opportunities that the Electrical Training Alliance can provide to increase knowledge, proficiency and work opportunities include instrumentation, the electric vehicle infrastructure training program and training programs focused on electrical safety-related work practices including NFPA 7OE,” said Palmer Hickman, Electrical Training Alliance director for code and safety curriculum and training.

The NFPA and 70E standards are also valuable resources for education and training. NFPA offers training that provides the most current requirements for electricians, contractors, risk managers, engineers, building managers, owners and others at risk or with responsibilities to maintain electrically safe workplaces. There are many other trade associations for safety professionals and a variety of industry sectors that can be helpful, as well.

When required training involves tools, equipment or PPE, manufacturers can be a valuable resource. They know their products better than anyone, including how they are best used and safely operated. Many manufacturers will even come to the work site to train employees on their products. The companies also, almost always, have supplemental training documents that employers can request and incorporate into in-house safety and training programs.

Westex, Spartanburg, S.C., manufactures arc-rated FR clothing, arc flash PPE and other FR fabrics, and it offers training to its customers in a variety of forms on a wide range of topics. This includes product and a mobile application, safety literature, in-person training, videos, live webinars and more. Their training programs address NFPA 70E, arc flash and many other areas.

Finally, consultants and subject-matter experts can be hired to fill gaps and supplement other employee education and training. So how might one go about identifying a consultant for training guidance in electrical safety?

“When looking for a trainer in electrical safety, I would break it down into more specifics,” said Charles Kelly, president of Kelly Consulting and Mediation Services LLC. “If you are looking for a general overview, you can go with local community college instructors or electrical manufacturers’ reps. If you want a more specific focus, then you need to look for recognized subject-matter experts.

“Depending on the job involved, inside or outside electrical work, you would look to individuals familiar with the work due to the many intricacies of each job. An inside electrical trainer may not be as familiar with the precautions needed when doing overhead line work and vice versa,” he said.

Kelly also indicated the benefits of consulting a subject-matter expert.

“One of the biggest advantages that I see, and recommend to my clients, is the ability to have a fresh set of eyes, perspectives and simply a different face delivering the training,” he said. “This is true in compliance training or work methods training. Training needs to resonate with the receiver. Sometimes having a third party conduct the training assists in reinforcing the in-house training programs and strengthens the belief that what is being taught is recognized industry practice.”

About the Author

Tom O'Connor

Safety Columnist

Tom O'Connor is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Reach him at toconnor@intecweb.com.

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