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Health & Safety: Staying a cut above health & safety training

As turf is to thrive, so must safety training

June 27, 2024  By The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

Photo: Uuganbayar/Adobe Stock

Much like a lawn or turf that requires routine maintenance to thrive, so, too, does your health and safety training program. In fact, it’s important to regularly evaluate your program to make sure the training you provide workers is effective at preventing incidents, injuries, illnesses, and diseases, and is updated when needed. 

There are different types of training that can help build a culture of safety in your workplace. Orientation training for your new hires, for example, provides the necessary knowledge and skills to work safely, including the safe use of tools, machinery, and equipment. It should also cover their rights and responsibilities, how to report injuries or concerns, and how to wear and store personal protective equipment. 

New and seasoned workers should also receive Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training if they work with hazardous products. This training should cover safe working practices, including checking safety data sheets before handling any hazardous substances and knowing how to respond to an emergency. 

Refresher training can help workers stay updated on safety procedures and teach them how to use new equipment or perform new tasks safely. 

Informal “crew talks” before a shift starts are brief but important touchpoints to communicate vital health and safety information to your workers, while also fielding their questions and concerns.  

Getting started on your training program
Whether you’re setting up your first health and safety training program or revising an existing one, you need to know the hazards your workers face to ensure it’s effective. 

Working with tools and machinery and handling chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides, are among the more obvious workplace hazards. But overexertion and repetitive strain from digging or removing debris, working alone on a jobsite or in a confined space, and slips, trips, and falls from uneven or slippery grounds, are also risks to consider. 

Conducting risk assessments can help you identify the unique hazards workers may encounter while performing routine work, as well as during non-routine circumstances like an extreme weather event.

Inspect the jobsite and look for potential hazards, talk about risk factors with your workers, and review health and safety records to find issues that need to be addressed. A thorough review of the level of risk associated with each hazard can help to inform the elements of your health and safety training program.  

Understanding your legal requirements
Check the legislation in your province or territory for the health and safety training requirements in your specific industry. The requirements may vary, but many provinces, territories, and federal jurisdictions require worker training for emergency procedures, such as fire prevention, evacuation, and first aid protocols. 

Beyond this, many jurisdictions also require workers to receive training on how to recognize and respond to violence and harassment. Some also mandate ergonomic training for workers who are at risk of musculoskeletal injuries. This can include providing instruction on safe work procedures, like how to lift properly, and how to use mechanical lifting aids that can help prevent physical strain such as back injuries. 

Knowing your local legislation will not only help ensure you are following the laws in your area to protect the health and safety of workers but can also help you set a baseline for training that you can expand upon in your workplace. 

Engaging your workers
The goal of health and safety training is for workers to understand the nature of the hazards in their workplace, and to learn and retain information about how to work safely.

You can engage your workers by involving them in the development and implementation of health and safety training, and by inviting their suggestions to make the program better. Talk to them about how work gets done and encourage them to share their experiences and input.  

When leading training sessions, it’s a good idea to break down jobs into steps and have training aids available. Describe the hazards a worker may face doing the job, and the protective measures available. This could include showing workers how to wear the right personal protective equipment, how to safely maintain equipment, or how to avoid repetitive strain. Always document and keep records.

Lastly, evaluate the results of your health and safety training program. 

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well being of workers in Canada by providing information, training, education, systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and injury and illness prevention.

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