Organisations spend time and money training employees to meet safety compliance requirements, but how many keep accurate training records? The answer to this question is very important if a serious incident or workplace fatality occurs. Especially if that event leads to a court case or a hearing in the coroners court.
This played out recently in a recent McDonald’s case where an employee used a ladder to climb onto the roof to smoke a cigarette before her shift began. As she descended down the ladder she fell and broke her leg. The roof of the building was not a designated smoking area for staff, the ladder bore a warning, and she didn’t have permission from her employer to go onto the rooftop. The ruling was in favour of the employee.
You can be excused for your confusion over the decision to award damages to an employee who had not used commonsense, had ignored signage and had entered an area that was off limits to employees.
However, the argument was two fold, she was required to be at work 10 minutes prior to her shift start time as per the policy, and it was ‘common practice’ among staff to go up the ladder to the rooftop.
In these cases the onus falls back on the employer to actually take steps to train, direct and instruct staff that this isn’t a practice that’s allowed. It was also deemed ‘ordinary recess’ as she had to report to work before her shift started, therefore she was legally covered during this time.
In this post we take a look at information around employer legal responsibilities as provided by the MyBusiness forum, before investigating how to protect your business when these types of events occur.
What are employers’ legal responsibilities?
Sam Jackson of Sparke Helmore Lawyers explained that “Employees have their own WHS duties that they must comply with while performing work and must take reasonable care for their own safety, and for the safety of others”.
Employers must ensure that they’ve taken all reasonably practicable steps to provide a safe workplace. Mr Jackson suggested that “If an employee actively flouts established procedures and an incident or other possible breach occurs, then the employer may have a defensible position if it provided and maintained safe plant and systems of work, and provided the relevant employees the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable those employees to perform their work safely, and without risks to health”.
He particularity honed in on the importance of training records “to demonstrate the information, instruction and training provided to the relevant employees”.
This is where organisations can come unstuck.
What can employer’s do to protect themselves?
While the safety of employees is first and foremost, plenty of safety training focuses on meeting compliance – providing a safety induction, procedures, policies and safe systems of work. Organisations make an effort to document procedures and policies and safety systems of work, but safety training is often ‘once off’ or sporadic.
Safety inductions, for example, can be ‘tick and flick’ with a record of attendance as the only evidence that the training was completed. Tick and flick assessments don’t necessarily demonstrate a person’s understanding. Employees need to be able to explain the purpose and value of safety policies and procedures and prove their understanding in their demonstrated safe behaviours while at work.
Until new employees have proven understanding of their responsibilities they should not be placed in a position to breach those responsibilities and put the business and their safety at risk.
Inductions should be run regularly, e.g. refreshed once or twice per year. This will help ensure that employees know and understand what their safety responsibilities are and how to keep themselves and others safe. The expectation that employees will remember all that was trained in an induction years after their first week at work, is flawed. This sets up the employee to learn by their mistakes and in high risk activities, ‘near miss’ learning can be fatal.
Safety training needs an assessment that proves ongoing knowledge and competence and one that details areas for improvement. This assessment should be attached to an employee’s training records to demonstrate continued competence. Any gap in knowledge should be addressed with further training, e.g. toolbox sessions and observations that the employee understands the safe way to work and the expectations. Once again these activities should be documented and attached to the employees training records.
Safe Work Australia argues that keeping good records of safety training provided to employees and visitors is an essential element of an effective training system. The records should indicate:
- what the training was about
- who received the training
- when it was provided
- who or how the training was provided.
They recommend that copies of course content and assessment tools as well as specific assessment records should be kept to show that the business has complied with the regulations. Records may be kept electronically and should be made available to employees and regulators. The records should be kept as long as the employee is engaged by the business.
Record keeping should extend to recording training that aims to reduce psychological risk. This includes documenting the number of staff who have completed mental health first aid training, wellbeing campaign topics and activities and any other reported information that can be stored to demonstrate ongoing training to support employee mental health.
How can Tap Into Safety help?
The Tap Into Safety Training Platform uses an organisations existing workplace health and safety data to build an individualised, interactive and immersive hazard perception training solution. It complements existing workplace training via a simple URL integration on existing training platforms.
Clients have used the safety training modules to make their safety inductions interactive and engaging, or as a follow up hazard perception training if they have had an incident, near miss or audit recommendation.
Through using 360-degree panoramic photography of work spaces, our training solution allows employees to interact with the gaming platform to determine if they have any gaps in their safety knowledge. This assists organisations to assess, measure and improve hazard perception through detailed results and reports. It’s here where Tap Into Safety truly adds value.
The reporting features in the Platform drill down to show knowledge of workplace hazards situated within the employee’s work context and provides detailed gaps in their understanding of the control and critical control measures required to keep them safe. This level of detail clearly demonstrates an employee’s knowledge and ongoing competence. Our simple API integration fits into the organisations learning management systems and training record repositories, immediately ensuring ongoing documentation is stored within the employees records. Ready, if ever they are required, as evidence of competence in the unfortunate event of a workplace incident or fatality. In doing so, we’ve got the organisation covered! See our post on immersive methods to improve safety training.
Complimenting the interactive safety training content, the Platform also provides interactive mental health training modules on topics that impact employee’s while at work. Clients have used the mental health training as part of their induction and on-boarding training to meet immediate duty of care compliance requirements and to complement their mental health campaigns and programs. The reporting features in the mental health training side of the Platform uses de-identified data to show trends in employee groups mental health, including those in early decline. This level of detail is important for organisations who wish to take a proactive approach to psychological injury reduction. See our post on employee wellbeing and productivity.
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