Safety training: The best way to boost productivity, save money, reduce downtime
Is it your company’s slow season? Are workers idly pushing brooms just because the production line is down for routine maintenance? Then it’s the perfect time for safety training.

Why, you may ask? Because:

  • most safety training is required by OSHA anyway and must be completed at some point

  • safety training leads to fewer injuries, which will save the company money, and

  • safety training can’t really be considered downtime since it’s both a necessary and constructive activity.

OSHA’s thoughts on the value of training

“Education and training are important tools for informing workers and managers about workplace hazards and controls so they can work more safely and be more productive,” according to OSHA.

This provides workers, managers and supervisors with:

  • a greater understanding of the safety and health program so that they can contribute to its continuing development and use

  • knowledge and skills needed to do their work safely and avoid creating hazards that could place themselves or others at risk

  • awareness and understanding of workplace hazards and how to identify, report and control them, and

  • specialized training when their work involves unique hazards.

Importantly, OSHA points out that effective “training and education can be provided outside a formal classroom setting. Peer-to-peer training, on-the-job training, and worksite demonstrations can be effective in conveying safety concepts, ensuring understanding of hazards and their controls, and promoting good work practices.”

That means you wouldn’t even have to drag everyone into a conference room, unless you feel it’s necessary. Best of all, since it’s not busy it’ll make doing those worksite demonstrations and the peer-to-peer training much easier to do.

How does safety training save money?

You may be thinking, “OK, conducting safety training when business is slow sounds like it could be worthwhile. But how does it save the company money?”

The answer comes in the form of another question. Which one is better, paying a worker to:

  • perform busy work that isn’t really productive, or

  • learn skills that could prevent injuries and make them work more safely?

Obviously, busy work isn’t the correct answer. However, you’re still probably asking, “Where are the monetary savings?” The savings come from fewer injuries.

A 2022 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that there were 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2021. That’s a lot of injuries and they cost employers money.

The National Safety Council reports that in 2020 worker injuries cost U.S. employers a total of $163.9 billion. In the same year, those injuries cost:

  • $1,100 per injured worker

  • $44,000 per medically consulted injury, and

  • $1.3 million per work-related fatality.

The average workers’ compensation claim for the same period was $41,353.

Bottom line: Safety training leads to fewer injuries which lead to cost savings.

Benefits of hands-on, scenario-based training

When business is at its slowest, it’s the best time for some hands-on, scenario-based training. The opportunity to conduct safety training “in the field” is incredibly valuable. The reason is because it makes it much easier for workers to see how the training directly applies to them.

For example, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) pointed to that exact kind of training as the reason why a ship and its crew survived an engine fire at sea.

An NTSB investigation revealed that the crew’s successful efforts to stop the fire from spreading throughout the vessel was because of regular scenario-based training.

Crew members fought the fire using fire hoses and a fixed water mist system before using the engine room’s fixed carbon dioxide fire extinguishing system, which eventually put the fire out.

Investigators determined that the crew effectively contained the spread of the engine room fire by removing fuel and oxygen sources, cooling boundaries and communicating effectively.

There were no injuries among the 22 crew members onboard the vessel. Damage was estimated at $8.22 million, but that figure would’ve been much higher had the vessel been a complete loss.

The NTSB said the crew’s efforts showed the importance of realistic scenario-based training, which in this case involved complex tasks such as shutting down machinery and boundary monitoring, to quickly contain and suppress engine room fires.

While this example involves a maritime incident, the value of realistic scenario-based training – including hands-on use of PPE and other equipment – can be applied to safety training in any industry.

Classroom training is also valuable, but nothing helps a worker retain knowledge like being able to apply the training in the same space they work in every day.