While organizations may vary in individual ways, many are beset with a similar time-cost-quality challenge: how to boost safety performance results and employee involvement in a time- and cost-effective manner?
In most industries, there exists a continuous delicate balance of production, morale and safety. On one hand, it can seem that productivity can conflict directly with safety. Thinning workforces and pressures to do more in a shorter timeframe can lead to temptations to make safety shortcuts. And, as a workforce ages, employees more and more find themselves working harder at fifty than they did at twenty.
This scenario can - and frequently does - lead to elevated risk exposures, lowered levels of worker trust and morale and other reactions that can be costly to everyone.
But, safety, when well implemented, can be a catalyst for enhancing productivity and worker morale. A strategic system of training peer trainers is one powerful approach that can accomplish many objectives simultaneously; this has been proven in many companies, in a wide array of industries, worldwide. It can be an extremely powerful means for reducing injuries, furthering buy-in and activating underutilized resources - all leading to boosting safety culture.
Since 1989, I have trained peer-trainers in companies in Australia, Canada, Chile, Dubai, England, France, Germany, Indonesia, Russia, Scotland, Spain, and Venezuela and throughout the United States. The information below is derived from our experience and has been proven successful in a wide range of industries and cultures.
Traditional employee training is like the proverbial little boy: when it is bad, it can be horrid; when it is good, it can be wonderful. Too often, however, we've seen far too much of the former, mixed with a very large dose of the "so-so."
By design, training offers an excellent opportunity to not only share information but also to change attitudes, motivation, skills and behavior.
In addition, a strategic peer train-the-trainer system can accomplish much more:
Boost credibility for safety - and for the organization. To positively impact safety within a company, it is important that employees feel the approaches and strategies used are useful and sincere. When well-selected, peer trainers have credibility and respect of their peers going in. When they then are trained in a process in which they see value, they can further spread credibility throughout the company.
Strengthen buy-in. In order to get buy-in, it is critical that workers feel a sense of ownership and control. One way to accomplish this is by utilizing the talents and experience of line staff, recruiting them as trainers and facilitators.
Enhance involvement. Many organizations understand the power of employee involvement for eliciting ideas and elevating receptivity to change. The act of selecting and training peer trainers is an involvement process in itself. Then, when these peer trainers are "deputized" to serve as agents of safety change, they will further enlist others to become more involved in safety, in different ways.