Staff awareness training is an integral part of ISO 45001, the international standard for OH&S (occupational health and safety).
Although you might associate health and safety risks with specific industries, such as manufacturing or construction, all organisations face challenges. They may not be life-threatening, but accidents can lead to delays or chronic problems that manifest over time.
The most common accidents involve trip hazards and the unsafe use of machinery, but there are also silent risks, such as ergonomic hazards resulting from a poor workstation set-up.
Additionally, OH&S encompasses psychosocial hazards, which are risks that can affect an employee’s mental health. These could include overworked employees, stress, bullying or sexual harassment.
ISO 45001 gives organisations a framework to manage a diverse range of risks, embedding health and safety in core activities.
Unlike previous frameworks on this topic, the Standard no longer suggests that individuals are solely accountable for certain tasks.
It instead encourages a joint effort across the team, which is why it’s essential that everyone is aware of the risks they face and the ways they can stay safe.
What does ISO 45001 say about staff awareness training?
Staff training is addressed in three sections of ISO 45001:
- Section 7.2: Competence
- Section 7.3: Awareness
- Section 7.4: Information and Communication
Section 7.2 states that employees must be properly trained in health and safety, section 7.3 states that employees must be aware of health and safety issues, and section 7.4 requires organisations to evaluate their requirements for internal and external information and communication.
Of these, section 7.3 provides the most detail on what an OH&S staff awareness training programme should cover. It outlines six areas that organisations must address.
1) Hazards and risks related to employees’ jobs
An organisation’s first task is to make sure employees understand the risks that they might encounter.
Some risks are universal and are associated with specific locations, or with activities that all employees perform but others will only apply to people in certain job roles. It’s important that you identify every risk and state which roles are affected.
2) OH&S policies and objectives that affect employees’ activities
The key to this area is understanding how employees’ activities affect your organisation’s health and safety objectives.
Your documentation should include rules that prevent individuals from performing non-compliant activities, but there may be risks and hazards that are inherent to the tasks that they complete.
For example, if someone operates heavy machinery, there is always a risk of malfunction and injury. Likewise, if an employee’s job involves moving heavy objects, there is always the possibility that they’ll strain a muscle.
You also need to assess whether there is anything about the premises that comes with fundamental risks. This might be a path that’s often covered in ice when it’s cold outside and which could cause employees to slip.
A more prosaic example would be an employees sitting at their screen for hours at a time, resulting in eye strain.
These risks can’t be eradicated by policies alone, which is why you need to increase employees’ awareness and encourage them to better protect themselves.
3) Employees’ contribution to the OH&S management system
Policies are only useful if employees read them and recognise their obligations. They should have a strong understanding of why the policies are in place and how they keep employees safe.
This includes a more general awareness of the benefits that come with OH&S.
It’s not enough to simply publish the policies and let employees read them if they wish. Documentation should be a central part of your staff awareness training programme, with a member of the team explaining the value of OH&S and the justification for the rules.
4) Potential consequences of non-compliance
Another aspect of staff awareness regarding OH&S policies involves educating employees on what happens if they fail to comply. What specific injuries might they suffer, and how will an accident affect the organisation?
Explaining the risks in this way demonstrates that the rules have clear value beyond being a bureaucratic process.
5) Relevant past incidents
Health and safety policies are often created or amended based on experience. By providing real-life examples of accidents, employees will better understand the consequences of non-compliance and the reason these policies are in place.
It’s unlikely that employers will be able to recall real-life examples for many risks, so it’s helpful to document and review incidents as they happen.
You should already be doing this as part of the continual improvement process, in which OH&S policies are evaluated and necessary changes are made.
The continual improvement process is typically complemented with a performance evaluation, in which key objectives are measured with KPIs (key performance indicators).
This process helps organisations spot more subtle risks, such as the link between employees’ psychosocial risks and their performance, or the time of day in which accidents are most likely to occur.
6) Removal from unsafe situations
Employees must understand that it’s acceptable – and perhaps necessary – to stop working when it is not safe to do so.
In some cases, an employee may be required to address the source of the risk, but other times there is nothing that can be done but wait.
It’s essential that employees recognise what action is required once they’ve identified an unsafe situation. If action is required, there should be a process to inform the appropriate person.
How to implement OH&S staff awareness training
There is no one way to deliver OH&S staff awareness training. Some organisations will require employees to conduct a thorough assessment before they start, whereas others can provide on-the-job training.
However, everyone must understand the importance of OH&S and their obligations to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.
An introduction to staff awareness requirements is an essential part of the induction process, while training should be repeated at least annually to refresh employees’ knowledge.
If you’re looking for guidance on creating a staff awareness training programme, GRC eLearning is here to help. Our Health and Safety Staff Awareness E-Learning Course contains everything you need to ensure employees stay safe and well-informed of the risks they face.
This 45-minute online course is ideal for initial and repeat training, and comes with a monthly newsletter containing the latest tips.