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When to Use Free Health & Safety Courses (and When to Pay)

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on September 28, 2020 at 1:20 PM

As a company committed to safety, you find yourself walking a tightrope. On one hand, safety is part of your core values. You want to ensure that every employee comes to work safe and goes home from work safe and healthy.

On the other hand, you’re a budget-focused company, which means you have limited resources to make that vision possible.

In practical terms, this makes your EHS a creative exercise. You have to figure out when to pay for things and when to make it work. But you also don’t want to compromise on quality safety content, and you’re trying to figure out how to strike that balance. Free health & safety courses can be useful to that end – if you know what you’re signing up for and when they’re the right fit.

As a rule, there are two major instances when free training is right for you: when you need to cover the basics and when you don’t have time to develop your own training.

When You Need to Cover the Basics

Free health & safety courses tend to cover a specific type of content: the basics. Most providers who offer both free and paid safety training do this deliberately. They don’t want to give up all their best content in a free course, and in any case, they don’t know that someone looking for a free course is looking for serious training.

To be clear, this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. Quite the opposite. Because free training so often focuses on the basics and introductory-level health and safety content, you can use free health & safety courses to provide baseline training.

That way, when it is time to invest in in-depth training, you can spend more of your safety dollars on trainings that really matter.

When You Don’t Have Time to Develop Your Own Training

Small companies face a unique conundrum. On the one hand, they are held to the same safety standards as companies twice their size. On the other hand, they don’t have the resources of a company twice their size.

In translation? Small companies often struggle to find a balance between using their available resources and providing enough training to support safe behavior and critical learning.

This is where free health & safety training is helpful. It allows you to access much of the critical safety content you need at a price you can afford. Need compliance training? No problem!

Keep in mind that free training won’t cover everything. Free safety training, especially online safety training, cannot address certain topics, either because they’re too in-depth to offer for free or because they have a hands-on component that’s unrealistic to provide for free or in an online setting.

However, free health & safety training does allow you to create your baseline infrastructure at no added cost, which means you can focus the rest of your safety dollars on other essential investments, perhaps like EHS software. Plus, free online training saves you the time and effort required to build your infrastructure yourself.

The Benefits of Free Health & Safety Courses

Free health and safety courses don’t get enough credit in the safety world. Think about it – it’s a free opportunity to teach your employees something they didn’t know yesterday, a free chance to engage with safety and encourage safe practices that may well save lives.

Yet the benefits of free health and safety courses run deeper than just learning. Even if you have a safety training infrastructure in place, free health and safety courses can deepen employee learning and strengthen your existing training infrastructure. Here are two reasons why.

Increase Employee Awareness

First and foremost, free health and safety courses help increase employee safety awareness of safety issues. To be clear, we’re not just talking about employee knowledge of safety issues, though that’s also part of the equation. Employee awareness goes deeper than that.

Employee safety awareness involves constant vigilance. Safety is not just something employees think about during training or an issue that arises after a workplace accident – it should be something employees are conscious of at all times. Otherwise, they won’t be able to recognize small issues that may later blossom into larger issues.

Free health and safety courses are an essential tool on that front because they allow you to provide a more consistent stream of safety training than you might be able to offer on your own. the more often you train, the better you drive home the point that safety is a core value and the more often you encourage your employees to think about safety.

Better Retention

This also related to learning retention, which is one of the critical goals of safety training. You can teach all day long, but if your employees don’t retain what you teach, they won’t be able to use those skills in the workplace.

One of the critical tools of learning retention is repetition, essentially hard-wiring your brain to remember certain thought paths by treading them over and over again, like muscle memory. We’re not saying you need to use free health and safety courses to repeat the same content over and over again, but rather that regular exposure is the best way to keep safety issues front of mind.

Plus, regular safety training offers more opportunities for participants to actually, you know, participate. This dramatically increases learning retention, since employees are more likely to keep information when they engage with it instead of letting it wash over them.

How to Offer Good Health & Safety Courses

As a diligent safety professional, you often find yourself asking the same question: how do you know if your health & safety courses are any good? After all, there’s getting through training and delivering worthwhile training.

Here are two ways to offer truly good health & safety courses. If they sound basic, keep in mind that the fundamentals are often where companies go astray. If you have a good foundation, the rest will follow.

Focus on Necessary Skills

If you want to make safety training useful, you have to make it relevant. And that means focusing on the skills that your employees actually need.

Some general skills apply broadly but require in-depth training, like analytical skills and problem-solving skills. Other skills apply to specific job tasks, like forklift operation, and require certification before employees are allowed to perform those tasks.

The best way to approach this is to break down the safety skills your employees need. Think about who needs specialized training, who can benefit from broader safety training, and what safety training applies across the board. Focus on offering training that’s relevant to your employees’ necessary skill sets and only have employees attend the trainings that are relevant to their work.

Having Employees and Management Train Together

However, there are cases where cross-pollination is not only useful but important. For example, having employees and management train together.

Management often falls victim to the “fire and forget” mentality, i.e. completing a universal safety training and moving on to other things. They often do this training separately from employees.

Having employees and management train together has two benefits. First, when everyone is held accountable in the same way, it forces management to engage with safety training on the same level as the rest of the staff. Second, when management is held accountable and actively participates, employees get a powerful message that safety is everyone’s responsibility and everyone is responsible for learning.

Remember, your employees take cues from their managers in big and small ways, often in ways managers don’t realize. If employees don’t see management engaging with training, it sends the message that safety is really only applicable to employees, which tells employees that safety training is cursory rather than an act of genuine concern for employee wellbeing.

Supplementing Free Health & Safety Courses with In-Depth Content

Free health & safety courses can be a phenomenal tool for budget-focused businesses. You just have to know what they achieve and when to supplement them with additional content.

While it is true in safety that you get what you pay for, free health and safety courses from high-quality providers are a fantastic supplement to existing safety training. These courses allow your EHS team to supplement the content they already have so employees can engage with the material in new ways.

Looking for more great safety content? Make sure to check out our blog for free material to strengthen your safety culture.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Training Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture, Human Resources, Professional Development

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