The purpose of training is to act on the behaviour of the participants



By Antonio Pucacco

When discussing training it is important to emphasise how the purpose of each training measure is to act on the behaviour of the participants. In other words doing training in the field of occupational safety is not just addressing a sequence of topics in a given time, but rather it is the process necessary and sufficient to produce a change in those who participate, according to set goals. From this stems the importance to select and verify the trainers and their skills and correctly planning and verifying the path taken to acquire an effective training.

Employers are in fact required to provide the training required and sufficient to produce correct and professional behaviour on the workplace. Neither a certificate nor the formal compliance to a law or regulation can guarantee that "correct" training was provided; only on-field testing of how the trained employee works will.

If we wanted to express the same concept in a more concrete way we can make the example of the most effective way law enforcement officers use to test the training of their staff. Although they might in fact be satisfied with the certifications, training plans and training books they often question and test the trainees during training, often individually, to verify whether they behave properly and have the correct knowledge (in other words, to verify whether they are properly trained).

This approach applies to all types of occupational safety training, such as safety training in a company, fire fighting or first aid staff training and even the training provided to the employer who carries out directly the "PPSM tasks".

For the sake of clarity we point out that the course duration required by the law, the contents and the density of any updates we indicate shall be understood as minimum requirements in order to reach the training goal.

Indeed, if after a fire fighting or first aid course an employee feels "less at ease" than before, just because he has understood the things he has to do, but does not feel able to do them, maybe the trainer has dealt with the required topics in the required time schedule but missed the intended target. Likewise, if after a course an employee thinks he can replace the professional medical emergency of fire fighting staff once again the course has not fulfilled its training goals, as in both cases the trained employee is not behaving as intended. Then again, let us consider the case of an employee taking a course, sitting through it without understanding any of the contents and then nonetheless receiving the "certification" at the end of a course: that employee would have learned only one thing: to consider safety and training as "empty bureaucratic" stuff you need to take to get an equally "empty bureaucratic piece of paper".

If instead after the course the employee "feels the urge" to re-read the company emergency procedures, or to check (respectively) the type, position and maintenance status of the fire-fighting devices or the content of the first aid kit, or if the employee wishes to contribute to the company with a request for clarification or a constructive proposal, then the course has made the employees aware of their role and eager to be proactive.

Lastly, if the employee has learned how to use the fire extinguisher or how to carry out CPR, then the training has achieved its goal. We believe that this small example may already be sufficient to provide a "magnifying glass" useful for evaluating the training proposed by the various trainers.

At this point it might be useful to have a look at two instruments becoming increasingly common: training grants and funds and e-learning.

E-learning is a practical and powerful training tool, if used well. It is quite evident that it cannot be used as the ONLY training modality as it is difficult, in fact, to imagine, especially in small companies, that training can take into account the organizational and behavioural needs of each individual or even of each small company. That is why we believe it is a valid proposal, to be considered as part of a broader training offer that includes additional modules to be provided with traditional, "classroom" training, without which it is difficult to generate the necessary behavioural changes.

Another interesting tool is the possibility to get partial or even total refund of training fees. For example, through inter-trade associations funds, bilateral bodies and trade associations can recover part of the amounts paid by the company and allocate them to training. Many training providers, including us, can use resources made available by the regulations in force to encourage the businesses to provide training.

In these cases it bears mentioning that it is not easy to calculate and understand the amount actually allocated to training. For example, so-called "free training" might actually be training too cheap to be of truly acceptable quality.

This would give the trained employees the false security, ironically, of having fulfilled the requisites of the law, only to then discover, far too late, that the employees were not trained adequately and sufficiently. We therefore recommend to ask what is the value of the training offered, both in economic terms and in terms of planning and results offered.




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