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Training that Works


By Randy Logsdon

One of the fundamentals of most safety programs is training. Certainly the federal regulatory agencies with statutory responsibility for occupational safety consider education and training vital to workplace safety. One of those agencies (MSHA) devotes two full parts of its regulatory volume, 30 CFR, to training – Part 48 and Part 46.

In addition, both the coal and metal/non-metal regulations dictate additional training requirements. Both Parts 47 and 62 include extensive training components. We rely on our company employee education and training systems to deliver essential knowledge and critical skills that our employees can use to perform their tasks safely.

So, just how well are we doing?

It’s something of a rhetorical question because I'm really not sure that anyone really knows – certainly not on a broad scale. (For brevity's sake, I will use the term training to reference both education and training.) No doubt, there are pockets of quality training occurring throughout the mining industry. I'm equally certain that (despite the best intensions) many of our training attempts have failed to meet our objective.

The effectiveness of training can be measured in a number of ways. Be wary of superficial evaluations based on subjective impressions:

  • No one slept through it. (A low threshold.)
  • It was entertaining. (But what was the content?)
  • The instructor was knowledgeable. (Did the knowledge transfer?)
  • I learned a lot. (Did anyone else?)

An indirect measure of the effectiveness of training can be deduced from investigations of mishaps or system failures that identify causal factors. Often one of those causal factors points to deficiencies in training, knowledge, or retention. If one of the resulting action items includes retraining, there may be a flaw in the training system.

Consider adopting a two-step evaluation process.

Step 1 – Test (or quiz) at the conclusion of the training session or very soon thereafter. Address each of the three primary learning domains.

  • Cognitive. Can the trainee recall or repeat the essential content (objectives) of the training?
  • Affective. Can the trainee apply the principles learned in a variant application?
  • Motor. Can the trainee demonstrate the skills and process without error consistently?

Step 2 – Audit retention. Repeat Step 1 later. How much later will depend on the person, the job and the environment. One might assume that the skills and knowledge used frequently will be retained with greater consistency than the less frequently applied skills.

However, it is important to understand that errors omissions and flaws can creep into even highly structured procedures. The audit step provides a reset opportunity before an investigation is necessary.

Finally, it's important to recognize that training is a form of Antecedent that helps to direct a desired Behavior. Recalling the A-B-C model, realize that if the required knowledge is suspect or the skills are rusty, the resulting behaviors may be inappropriate.

If, as a result of the abridgment of the process, the job is completed more quickly or more easily (omitting lock-out for example), those Consequences can reinforce the abridged procedure, which could eventually lead to a mishap.

Many of us make an effort to try to learn something new every day. I just wonder how much we've forgotten?