• International Workplace
  • 27 June 2017

Challenging health and safety practice: time for a refresh?

Refresher training tends to come in for a lot of stick by the people who often feel they’ve been forced to do it as part of a ‘tick box’ compliance procedure. And all too often, they are right. 

Finding a way of refreshing existing knowledge – while delivering an update on important changes that have taken place in the interim – is one of the toughest challenges for learning and development teams and indeed for training providers such as International Workplace.

How best to remind people about things they already know, without boring them or alienating them altogether? How do you know what knowledge they have gained since their original learning, and which information may have passed them by completely? One person might have actively kept themselves up to speed on a certain subject, while another may have no idea of how things have changed. Yet as an employer, you have a duty to ensure all of them have a basic level of knowledge and understanding that may be required for them to do their job.

Nowhere is this more important than in health and safety where – as is evident from a number of recent incidents – the consequences of failing to challenge existing knowledge and practice can result in potentially fatal outcomes.

My colleague Adam Walmsley wrote in January 2017 with some prescience of the virtues of refresher training, notably that it was more than just re-learning the same course material you had learned before.

“As part of good management and cultural identity of the company, it acts not only as reinforcement, but also gives employees an opportunity to answer long outstanding questions to help with their own understanding. It also resets the attitude that comes with people working in groups for long periods of time, putting their own interpretation on things, regardless of folly.”

What is important to note from his words is that refresher training should be a two-way process, allowing for dialogue between the employee and employer. And that it should be an opportunity to challenge the ‘the way we do things around here’ and hold existing practice up against the more objective requirements of law and recognised good practice.

Adam also noted in his blog that where health and safety and fire safety regulation is concerned, there is a legal duty to provide refresher training.

Article 21 of the UK’s Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 says we “must,” and Regulation 12 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 says we “shall”, and this will “be repeated periodically where appropriate” so there is no getting away from it. If we can be bothered to look further it goes on to say “be adapted to take account of any new or changed risks”.

As any trainer knows, training is not training if learning has not taken place. Refresher training is an excellent opportunity to adapt; by checking initial learning has taken place, provide employees with essential updates and this time really show them how it relates to their work environment so they can make a difference to their own wellbeing. For the responsible person it can also help them review and ensure existing training materials are suitable and get feedback from staff by including a questionnaire as part of their training experience.

International Workplace offers the world-renowned IOSH Managing Safely Refresher course as a classroom-based course and via eLearning. While IOSH has relaxed the requirement for the course to be undertaken every three years in order to keep their certificate valid, it’s nevertheless a useful way of keeping up to date, and can provide a good opportunity for internal challenge and debate.

The same goes for our suite of IOSH-approved eLearning short courses, and for tailored in house training. Call us on +44 (0)333 210 1995 to find out more.