Course 700 - Introduction to Safety Management

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Element 7: Education and Training


All of these impact our safety performance.
All of these impact our safety performance.
(Click to enlarge)

This module will introduce you to general OSHA requirements for education and training. However, I will emphasize "getting beyond compliance" by addressing best practices in effective safety and health education programs. To learn more about safety education and training, be sure to complete OSHAcademy Course 703, Introduction to OSH Training.

The Big Picture

Safety education and training is extremely important to ensure all processes in your company's safety and health management system are effective. If this critical element is missing, none of the other system elements can, or will be effective. But, this element is often neglected or managed ineffectively because the benefits may not be immediate, tangible, and directly related to profits. Managers may find it difficult to see the long-term improvements in process and product quality that result from an effective safety education and training program. It's hard to see the accidents that don't actually happen.

OSHA Training Requirements

OSHA Training Requirements Overview -

OSHA's training standards and training requirements are organized into five categories of OSHA standards: General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture, and Federal Employee Programs.

OSHA has many types of educational materials in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages available in print or online. These include:

  • Brochures/booklets;
  • Fact Sheets;
  • Guidance documents that provide detailed examinations of specific safety and health issues;
  • Online Safety and Health Topics pages;
  • Posters;
  • QuickCards™ that provide brief safety and health information; and
  • QuickTakes, OSHA's free, twice-monthly online newsletter with the latest news about OSHA initiatives and products to assist employers and workers in finding and preventing workplace hazards. To sign up for QuickTakes, visit OSHA's Quicktakes Page.

To view materials available online or for a listing of free publications, visit OSHA's Publications Page. You can also call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) to order publications. OSHA's web site also has information on job hazards and injury and illness prevention for employers and workers. To learn more about OSHA's safety and health resources online, visit OSHA's A-Z Index Page.

OSHA's training requirements guide, Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Training Guidelines (PDF), is must-have publication for anyone responsible for the company's safety training program. This booklet covers many OSHA training requirements and also gives you some ideas on training strategies.

Beyond OSHA compliance

I want to make sure you firmly understand that, to be effective, your program must include safety education and safety training. But, how do the objectives differ between education and training?

Education vs Training
Education tells us WHY. Training shows us HOW.

Education vs. Training

The learning process may be thought of as including two basic components: safety education and training. These two basic components are usually combined in the learning process, but it's important to know that they each have a different purpose:

  • Safety Education typically occurs in the classroom or on the job and can be very effective by primarily increasing employee awareness so that they know WHY working safely is important. Increasing knowledge through effective instruction improves attitudes, interest in training, and personal safety leadership on the job.
  • Hands-on safety training is also conducted on the job, but may occur in a classroom as well. Training primarily focuses on improving skills through practice so that employee know HOW to work safely.

When employees know both why safety is important and how to work safely, they will demonstrate personal safety leadership by working safely, even when performing hazardous tasks when working alone. For example, Gary, a recent OSHAcademy student wrote:

"I stress to my co-workers that a life jacket is mandatory on deck. We hired a young guy who was a swimmer in college. He felt his swimming skills were such that he did not need the jacket. We educated him on hypothermia and that he could not save himself if he fell over in 35 degree water. Once he understood the hazard, he wore the jacket at all times, because he wanted to, not because he had to."

Education tells us why.  Training shows us how.
Employees must know why.
He's suffering the natural consequence of missing the nail.
He's suffering the natural consequence of missing the nail.
He's suffering a system consequence after violating a safet rule.
He's suffering a system consequence after violating a safety rule.

Educate To Show Why

There are many definitions for education. Within the context of occupational safety and health, education describes who, what, where, when, and most importantly, why safety procedure and practice are necessary. Education informs, persuades, and motivates to affect attitude.

The number one reason employees don't follow safety rules is that they don't know why they are important!

To make sure safety education and training is effective, it's necessary to tie the training to accountability. One of the most effective ways to do this is to emphasize the natural and system consequences that result from the appropriate application of what's being learned. Consequences represent the why in safety education.

Natural consequences describe the type of injury/illness that might result if we don't follow procedures. For instance:

  • An employee breaks an arm or leg as the result of a fall.
  • An employee escapes injury by properly using a personal fall arrest system.

System consequences describe the organizational response to performance. For instance:

  • An employee would be subject to a disciplinary process for failing to comply with safety rules.
  • An employee might be recognized for meeting goals or exceeding expectations.

Remember, we do what we do in the workplace because of the consequences. Safety education and training must make consequences clear.

Training goals show us how to do something.
Training goals show us how to do something.

Train To Show How

As we mentioned earlier, safety training has, as its goal, to improve the ability of employees to work safely. The most effective way to do that is through hands-on demonstration and practice. This is especially important when learning how to perform hazardous tasks.

For instance, you may show how to safely accomplish the steps of a particular task or procedure by:

  • practicing lockout/tagout procedures of a machine prior to servicing or maintenance.
  • going through the steps in cleaning up an incidental chemical spill.
  • performing confined space entry team procedures in a simulated confined space.

Importance of Education

Employees must know why safety is important.
Employees must know why safety is important.

Earlier I said that education tells the "why" in a learning process. In safety and health, the "why" can save a person's life. By far the most common reason workers do not follow safety rules (or any rule) is that they don't understand why doing so is important. They don't understand the consequences.

For instance, I'll bet your company has a list of safety rules that they asked you to read when you were first hired. Did anyone discuss each rule with you at that time, and why that rule was important to follow? Maybe not. (There's always an exception to this, and if you are one...congratulations!) If you only have a list of rules, you may want to suggest incorporating a short paragraph explaining why the rules are important. Don't assume it's obvious.

If your company attempts to institute change in any part of the safety and health program (or any other program), the effort will fail if the company only trains people how to change without educating in such a way that not only informs, but also motivates and persuades workers that the change is necessary and in everyone's' best interest.

"Show and Tell"

On-the-job safety training works!
On-the-job safety training works!

Safety education and training doesn't have to be difficult or expensive: it's not rocket science. So, what is probably the best and most common method to train specific safety procedures? On-the-job show and tell.

Seven-Step On-The-Job Training (OJT) Process

Safety training should be simple training. Hopefully, it's done where the task is performed. Hopefully the supervisor - the person responsible for the worker's safety - is conducting the training. Why...? Well, if a supervisor isn't knowledgeable enough to train safe procedures, how can he or she properly supervise, discipline, or recognize safety behaviors adequately? ( on my soap box again.)

On the next two tabs, I've included a simple seven-step OJT training process that helps to ensure new employees don't get hurt while being trained. Now I know that might sound funny, but it's happened. Especially notice in Step 4 that the employee must get permission to continue. That's a critical component of the safe procedure.

"Show and Tell" (Continued)

Step 1: Introduction

The trainer states and discusses the learning objectives and answers any questions the employee may have. The trainer should:

  • Tell the trainee the procedure you're going to train.
  • Discuss the acceptable standards of knowledge and performance.
  • Emphasize the importance of the procedure to the success of the production/service goals.
  • Invite questions.
  • Emphasize the natural and system consequences of their performance.

Step 2: Trainer Shows and Tells

In this step the learner becomes familiar with safe work practices in each step and why they are important. The trainer explains and demonstrates each step, and responds to any questions the learner might have. The trainer continues to demonstrate and explain each step until the learner understands what to do, when and why to do it, and how to do it. But, you might ask how the trainer can know the employee understands the procedure completely? Easy, if the employee can correctly restate each step in the procedure, and how to do it, the trainer can be sure the employee has adequate knowledge.


"Show and Tell" (Continued)

Step 3: Learner Tells and Trainer Shows

This step is only necessary when exposure to hazards inherent in the procedure could cause injury, illness or equipment damage. It protects the trainee because the trainer performs the procedure.

  • First, explain the step to the trainer and, if correct, the trainer performs the step. This gives the trainer an opportunity to discover whether there were any misunderstandings in performing the step.
  • If the learner directs the trainer to perform a step incorrectly, the trainer can stop, question the learner and review the step. The trainee also responds to trainer questions.

Step 4: Learner Shows and Tells

Now it's the trainee's turn to perform each procedure step.

  • The trainer directs the learner to perform the steps in the procedure.
  • The learner explains each step, gets permission to perform the step and then performs it. Remember, safety
  • Training usually involves hazardous procedures and practices, so requiring permission from the trainer prior to performing each step helps prevent injury, illness or equipment damage if the step is not performed correctly.
  • The learner may also try to perform the task too quickly, increasing the probability of an injury.

"Show and Tell" (Continued)

Recognize, document, and validate the training.
Recognize, validate, and document the training.

Step 5: Conclude

Once the formal training is finished, the trainer should:

  • Recognize the student's accomplishment - "Good job!"
  • Reemphasize the importance of the procedure and how it fits into the overall process.
  • Remind the employee about their responsibilities and accountability by discussing the natural consequences (hurt/health) and system consequences (reprimand/reward).

Step 6: Validate

After the conclusion of the OJT session, the trainer, or better yet, the supervisor should observe the employee applying what they've learned in the actual work environment. Doing so results in strong documentation that helps to legally protect both the employee being trained and the employer.

Recommendation: To prove the employee has the knowledge and skills to do a job safely, have the employee teach you how to do the job. If the employee can effectively train you how to do the job, he or she is qualified and you can sign them off. If they can't, you should not qualify them; it's time for some retraining.

By the way, When OSHA inspects, the compliance officer may ask employees about the job they are doing. The employees won't be able to hide their ignorance and it won't take long for the compliance officer to determine if the employee is qualified to do the job.

Step 7: Document

The well-known OSHA adage, "if it isn't in writing, it didn't get done," is true for any kind of safety training. For OJT training, documentation should be more than an attendance sheet.

To document the training, the trainee certifies:

  • training was accomplished
  • questions were answered
  • opportunities provided to do procedure
  • accountabilities understood
  • intent to comply

The instructor and supervisor certifies the trainee has:

  • demonstrated adequate knowledge
  • developed the skills to complete the procedures
See the sample training certification documents in Course 721, Module 5. It represents one possible way to document training.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Safety education must tell _____ and safety training primarily tells _____.

2. "_____ is often neglected or managed ineffectively because the benefits may not be immediate, tangible, and directly related to profits."

3. According to the text, what is probably the best and most common method to train specific safety procedures?

4. In the seven-step OJT procedure, this action helps make sure the new employee does not get injured performing a step in the task being learned:

5. All of the following are necessary to adequately document training, except:

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.