Understanding all the health and safety laws and regulations that impact businesses in the UK can be a tall order. It’s often challenging for Environmental Health and Safety managers to stay abreast of developments and changes, so it’s no surprise that uncertainty filters throughout an organisation. If you think you have health and safety knowledge gaps among your workforce, here’s what you can do to tackle the problem.
1. Identify the reason for gaps
First things first – you need to get to the bottom of why there are knowledge gaps in your business. Have you lost a number of staff and are now managing a team of new starters? Is the standard of training not high enough? Could it be due to the fact that managers aren’t communicating health and safety practices effectively? Drill down into the possibilities (remembering to actually ask your workforce why they think they have knowledge gaps) so you can be sure that issues don’t continue to resurface.
2. Organise face-to-face training
The quickest (and often most effective) way to fill any skills gaps you’ve identified is to organise high quality face-to-face training to meet your workers’ needs. For the best value you can organise large classes to take place, covering subjects that are relevant to a large population of your workforce. However, don’t be tempted to ‘skimp’ on training for smaller groups, or even specific individuals – if they have a particular knowledge gap to fill, it needs addressing. For example, a handful of individuals may require specialised training to teach them how to use machinery properly, so it’s undoubtedly worth the investment and may in fact be a legal requirement that you ensure it takes place.
3. Make the most of digital learning
Face-to-face training certainly has a number of benefits, and it’s sometimes the most effective method of learning – particularly if your workers need to get ‘hands-on’ to grasp a subject. However, digital learning has its place too, and offering some online training can be very effective if it’s put forward judiciously. Don’t overwhelm your workforce with a barrage of courses to complete, but do sign them up for refresher training on key health and safety principles. Even a multiple choice quiz will keep health and safety in the forefronts of their minds and show them where their knowledge gaps are, while highlighting those gaps to you.
4. Use good-quality software
One of the primary reason for knowledge gaps in a business is poor communication – despite everyone’s best efforts. For example, you might have noticed that key team members don’t receive notifications when they should do, or don’t know what stage in the process to action next. This kind of gap can be filled with reliable health and safety software as it will serve as a centralised platform to house all essential information. And, some types of software (such as risk assessment software, as well as other types offered by Airsweb) even includes automated email ‘handshakes’ to confirm that messages have been received and read by the intended recipient. Guaranteeing reliable communication like this means you’ll close knowledge gaps throughout your organisation.
5. Encourage a culture of communication
Finally, encourage members of your workforce at all levels to speak up and ask questions. Creating the kind of environment where this is OK and actively encouraged will ensure that knowledge gaps don’t stay hidden in the dark. You could organise learning sessions where workers can come prepared with questions (without fear of repercussion for not knowing what they ‘ought’ to already know), or you could create an anonymised submission box or email service for workers to use if they want to raise knowledge gaps in a more private manner.
Implement these five tips and see if you notice a reduction in the number or severity of knowledge gaps in your business.
Further reading on health and safety
- Employees in the workplace are not taking health and safety seriously
- Health and safety checklist for small businesses: 9 things you need to do