While great trainers are important to the success of any organization, safety trainers carry a huge responsibility: the lives of their trainees. With over 4,500 fatal work injuries recorded by the BLS in 2020, there’s no room for B-players on your safety training team.
So how do you identify employees who have the potential to be great safety trainers? And how do you structure your safety training program to ensure compliance across your team of trainers, and by extension, your employees?
Here’s what research shows us about what makes a good safety trainer, along with the knowledge we’ve gleaned from our own decades of experience in safety training. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to identify which of your employees will make the best safety trainers — setting your workplace up for health and success in 2022.
Safety Trainer Characteristics
While diversity and a range of personality types is great to have among your team of trainers, there are a few specific traits that will increase their likelihood of thriving in a trainer role. If you’re evaluating potential trainers from your group of employees, keep an eye out for those that exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:
Thirst for knowledge.
Effective trainers in any setting often have to memorize a dizzying array of information, but for safety trainers, this is even more true. With OSHA and other regulations changing frequently (and the risks of non-compliance being dangerous, expensive, and even deadly), safety trainers will be the most successful when they have a natural thirst for knowledge.
Which of your employees seems to soak up knowledge like a sponge? Is there anyone who has a near-encyclopedic memory when it comes to rules and regulations? These could be your next all-star safety trainers.
Your trainers set the tone, and the standard, for anyone they’re training. According to program safety manager Jason Townsell, CSP, “A positive, helpful and cooperative attitude can be the difference between a student learning and a student mentally checking out of a safety training class.”
While it’s great for your employees to have fun, safety training is, ultimately, a serious matter — so your best trainers should embody professionalism. What does that entail? Beyond the basics, like showing up on time and knowing the material, professionalism is about staying organized, keeping on-track, and following lesson plans methodically and consistently.
A desire to lead and teach. This might be the most important characteristic of all. While you can teach nearly anyone to execute a specific task, no amount of skill-based training can create passion. Either a trainer has it, or they don’t. Keep an eye out for the “helpers”, those employees who regularly lend a hand to their coworkers and go beyond their role to assist others. These are most likely your future A-list trainers.
Safety Trainer Skills
Beyond soft skills, your potential trainers will need to have some specific hard skills and knowledge in order to be effective safety trainers.
Experience in your workplace. While you’ll likely want your trainers to have spent a good amount of time in your industry, keep in mind that seniority isn’t always synonymous with skill. Conduct hands-on tests, interviews, and written exams to compare your trainers’ different skill levels. The more systematically (and objectively) you can measure your potential trainers’ knowledge, the better.
Subject-matter expertise. Are your potential trainers specialists in the areas they’ll be expected to train others? It’s essential that your trainers are subject-matter experts, themselves, so they can answer complex questions and give real-world examples during training sessions.
Train the Trainer: Creating a Safety Training Lesson Plan
Now that you’ve (hopefully!) identified a few employees who would make great trainers, it’s time to optimize your existing training program. Even if you pick the best possible trainers to get your team up to speed on safety and hazards in your workplace, it’s not worth much if your training program and materials don’t cover the right information.
So before you jump in, take inventory of your training checklists, manuals, and other media. Ask yourself:
Do I have an existing safety training program?
If you’re starting from scratch, consider purchasing a general safety orientation training course that your trainers can use immediately to get up to speed on best practices — and to impart that knowledge to their trainees.
Does my training program cover all the potential risks in my workplace?
Conduct a job hazard analysis of your surroundings. Consider physical, ergonomic, chemical, biological, environmental, and other hazards that your workers could encounter — and ensure you have a part of your training program dedicated to each of them. Here are some examples of each:
- Physical. Slips, trips and falls; loud noises, machinery, vibrations, and working from heights.
- Ergonomic. These tend to be less severe, but still problematic, hazards that build over time — like poor posture, improperly structured workstations and desks, and frequent lifting.
- Chemical. Acids, paint, glues, pesticides, and any substances that could result in damage if mishandled.
- Biological. This includes naturally occurring hazards like mold, bodily fluids, airborne pathogens, and sewage.
- Environmental. Natural disasters like fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes.
Do you have a written emergency plan that your trainers understand and can communicate clearly to trainees? An emergency plan is another foundational aspect of workplace safety that can mean the difference between life and death. If you don’t have a plan written up, use this comprehensive emergency plan kit to create one.
Is your current safety training lesson plan up-to-date with the latest OSHA and other compliance regulations? If you have an existing training program, have some of your top current trainers and potential trainers audit your training materials for compliance and report back to you with ideas for potential changes and improvements.
Am I delivering my training in a format that my trainers like and understand? Consider the range of learning styles across your team. While some learners may prefer written materials that they can absorb on their own time, others may learn better by watching a video and discussing with a group. Offer a range of opportunities to read, listen, watch, and “do”, in order to cover all possible learning styles in your workplace.
Are there clear objectives, assessments, and milestones in my training program? Your trainers will have a much easier time gauging the effectiveness of their training if the program is organized and includes assessments to show if learners are retaining knowledge.
How do I gauge when a trainer is ready and fully qualified to train my employees? How do I measure success? It’s a given that your trainers should be able to complete your existing safety training or compliance programs first, but is there any additional training they should undergo before becoming certified trainers?
There’s a lot to juggle when you’re putting together (or improving) your safety training programs. The good news is you don’t need to start from scratch or hire an expensive production team to create a custom program for your workplace. Check out our library of affordable safety training courses, videos, and other materials to customize a program that reflects your unique environment and rest assured that your trainers have access to the latest in workplace safety.