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As one of the main pillars of OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard, employee training is a critical part of your company’s workplace safety and regulatory compliance. Yet, HazCom training is also one of the most commonly overlooked elements of safety programs, as many employers struggle to make it effective, engaging, and relevant.

In our article in the October issue of OH&S, we provide practical tips for improving the efficacy of your HazCom training program. Below, we review some of those tips and discuss how today’s online training tools help ensure your people have the information they need to perform their jobs safely.

Ditch the Classroom Format

As worker knowledge, retention rates, and talent gaps become more prevalent, the need for more dynamic HazCom training has never been more necessary. Traditional classroom training methods are no longer effective for reaching today’s more diverse and technologically-advanced workforce. Effective HazCom training must be interactive, participative, and directly related to a worker’s job function.

Employees respond better to HazCom training material when they understand the reasoning behind it. While visual aids can help clarify information, consider taking it a step further by moving certain course components to the facility floor. This hands-on method not only demonstrates the real-life implications of what is being taught, but also engages workers more actively than a classroom setting. It also gives you a chance to test course elements on-the-fly in the actual settings where employees would need to know and recall the information quickly. By giving them the chance to showcase how the lesson applies to their actual work tasks, you’re also helping to reinforce why it’s so important to retain the information.

Overcome Course Format Barriers

Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 28.2 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force in 2018, comprising 17.4 percent of total workers. At the same time, age diversity is increasing at both ends of the spectrum; while it’s estimated that nearly half of all U.S. workers will be millennials by 2020, other data suggest that workers aged 45 to 59-years-old are projected to increase from 25.6 percent to 31.8 percent by 2030.

Language is another consideration. OSHA requires employers to provide training in a language and manner that they understand. This means training must account for non-English-speaking employees and any limitations in literacy level, vocabulary, or communications within your workforce. The more workers you have, the less likely it is that a “one size fits all” approach to training will work.

As a result, many employers are being forced to evolve their training methods to meet a wider variety of employee needs. This is an area where software is most beneficial; a good online training solution – like VelocityEHS’ On-Demand Training Software – offers an extensive library of flexible online courses covering a variety of EHS topics, with content that is interactive and engaging. The shorter, more digestible training courses are particularly appealing to millennial workers, and multi-language options help ensure all employees understand the information being conveyed. Plus, freed from a classroom environment, workers are able to access courses from remote locations and learn at their own pace.

Ditch the Annual Training Mindset

A common misconception about HazCom training is that federal OSHA requires employers to conduct annual refresher training. In actuality, there is no specific time interval in place, rather the agency expects employers to provide HazCom training before workers handle or work with hazardous chemicals, whenever new hazards are introduced into the workplace, and whenever previous training is no longer retained.

Some state OSHA plans do require refresher training to occur annually, so you should be aware of your state’s requirements. Even so, it’s important to avoid seeing HazCom training as just an annual task, since that can be harmful to your HazCom program, causing it to “fossilize.” For instance, a rigid annual training mindset may increase the likelihood of bypassing the requirement to train workers when a new chemical hazard is identified, which jeopardizes employee safety and puts your workplace out of compliance with the HazCom Standard.

Additionally, dusting-off the same training materials and delivering them the same way year after year is the easiest way to generate apathy among trainees. Your workers may even come to loathe HazCom training, which isn’t exactly a recipe for success.

Training management software helps streamline training program management so you know exactly who needs what training and when. A system like the VelocityEHS Training Management solution makes it easy to develop and assign training requirements for individual employees or job roles,  schedule training sessions, document and verify training completion, and even deliver automated email notifications that remind employees and managers when training deadlines and certification dates are upcoming or past due. Our Training Management solution helps you keep your training records up-to-date, and lets you centralize training activities across your entire enterprise. These tracking tools are particularly useful for safety managers who oversee a large workforce, or who need to coordinate training across multiple locations and comply with various local training requirements.

Verify All Workers Receive Training

OSHA has stated that it expects staffing agencies/contractors and host employers to share the responsibility for worker safety. This means that if your facility uses contract or temporary workers, you are responsible as the host employer for training them on your site-specific workplace hazards and HazCom program.

You must also keep open lines of communication with the staffing agency/contractor to ensure you both understand the other’s roles and responsibilities when it comes to training. While the staffing agency/contractor should, at a minimum, train its people on general HazCom requirements and the hazards of chemicals they regularly work with from one job site to another, host employers are responsible to train on site-specific hazard communication information.

Among other things, it’s critical that the training specifies how workers will access safety data sheets (SDSs), which can become important very quickly during an emergency. This an area where an electronic system for managing SDSs can prove invaluable. Our comprehensive Chemical Management software streamlines employee right-to-know SDS access and document management. Through our mobile-optimized online accounts and SDS / Chemical Management Mobile App employees can access SDSs, product details and container information both online and offline. Moreover, our robust Emergency Response Service offer on-the-spot chemical exposure support for chemical emergencies.

Let VelocityEHS Help

While evaluating, delivering, and tracking HazCom training can seem like an overwhelming task, it’s a critical part of worker safety and essential to compliance. Effective HazCom training does more than just empower workers to be safe and reduce the risk of workplace safety failures or governmental fines and citations; the right tools and approach to workplace chemical safety can transform a business, leading to greater productivity and contributes to a healthier bottom line. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the variety of HazCom training support resources offered by VelocityEHS and see how we can help you overcome even your toughest training challenges today.