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  • Writer's pictureKatie Inouye

Implementing Safety Training that Actually Improves Safety

Have you ever attended a safety training program only to return to work and see the same unsafe behavior that the training just addressed? I know I have.

This can be common problem with safety training because training is only one part of changing on-the-job behaviors of employees.

First Know Your Strengths & Weaknesses

The best way to begin is to first find out what your company's strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to safety. Do a little research: talk to employees, inspect the workplace, and review past safety records. Taking time to better understand what your company does well and where there is an opportunity for improvement is an important first step. Based on what you learn, you can celebrate your successes and tailor future training programs to address any weaknesses.

If you are a short line or regional railroad, you may want to consider having the Short Line Safety Institute complete a safety culture assessment for your organization. This is voluntary, non-punitive, and confidential assessment that assess 10 core elements of a strong safety culture. You can learn more about this program here:

Emphasize Personal Responsibility

Once you understand your strengths and weaknesses, you can create a custom training program with the objective to close any gaps of safety knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes.

Safety training often focuses on the safe procedures of a task. While this is critical, training shouldn't stop there. Safety is not only a skill but also an attitude and training programs should take into account the attitudes of employees and how best to change them.

I recently designed a rules training program that required participants to write their own Restricted Speed rule. The result was training participants wrote rules that were more conservative than the actual GCOR rule. This activity was followed up with a discussion on why employees sometimes choose to operate trains faster than what the current rule allows. This activity and one's like it are designed to not only teach what the safe action is but also address why sometimes employees don't always choose the safest way to perform a task.

Involve Managers in the Rollout and Follow-up of the Training Program

A safe work culture must be reinforced by managers. In order for your safety training program to be effective, it is critical you involve managers. One way you can do this is to involve managers in the implementation of a new training program by:

  • Before training communicate the goals of the training program and explain what observable behaviors the training program should change.

  • Create expectations on how managers should support this training initiative. It may make sense to have them conduct employee observations or coaching sessions to ensure employees understand the requirements and are performing jobs safely after training.

  • Follow-up with managers after the training program to learn about the impact of the training and to hold them accountable for any follow-up requirements.

Measure the Training Program's Effectiveness

You should think about how to measure a training program's effectiveness when designing the training program. The key to measuring the effectiveness of a training program is to first write clear, measurable learning objectives and program objectives. Learning objectives should state what employees will be able to know or do differently after taking the program. Program objectives should be written to measure what observable on-the-job behavior will result from the training program. Depending on the training program's length, here are four types of training evaluations:

  1. Level 1 - Measures the reaction of learning participants. Did they like the training? Did they find the activities engaging? What didn't the like about the training?

  2. Level 2 - Did the training program meet its learning objectives. This is measured through a written exam and/or hands-on exam.

  3. Level 3 - Did the training program meet its program objectives? 3-6 months after training, have employees changed they way they do their jobs? How has on-the-job performance changed or improved?

  4. Level 4 - How did the training program affect the company's overall safety performance? This should typically measured about one year after the training program.

Do you have more questions about how to make your training programs effective? Contact us at and we would be happy to learn more about your specific company and training needs.

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