Health and safety training, ethics, and challenges of train the trainer


Craig Nicholson

Submitted to CaDCR

Industry requires employers to educate and train their workforce in health and safety to improve their production, efficiency, and most importantly in the world shared with my professional colleagues and peers, worker safety.

Safety training is a critical component to any organization’s health and safety success and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The millions of decisions your workers make every day are born from their previous training opportunities, their previous employers’ presence and expectations to implement that training. At the time of hire, workers in general are catalysts of the cultures they’ve worked in since they started work. Impactful supervision and a robust safety culture inclusive of accountability and due diligence over time can have a profound effect on workers remaining in your organization or whether they choose to move on to a place where their safety is better respected and managed.

The quality of the programs your workers receive through your chosen provider should be visually and practically interesting enough to invite their curiosity, be simple enough to understand, be balanced with technical information and identify ways they can use the material when complete. Employers and supervisors should be measuring the effectiveness of the training as well as how much was able to be applied in their organizations. Many employers don’t realize how impactful the OHS Representative or the JHSC can be in assisting them in finding a decent provider. Decent providers should also be able to support their client better through using/ reintroducing their learning objectives into their clients daily operations.

Could the person in front of the room reading slides from a deck causing your workers to fall asleep, surf social media, and be able to truly find a creative way to use what they’re discussing to improve OHS in your organization? Can they bring real world experience to the accent? If the answer is no, maybe you’re with the wrong training provider.

I recently bumped into a vendor we use who told me they received their “Train the Trainer Certificate for WHMIS” from a competitor. She was happy and eager to describe everything she learned from the course about placards and how she was responsible for choosing the respirator that kept the air from smelling bad whenever they had to use chemicals. Read that again.

Employers have mostly warmed up to the idea that health and safety won’t be going away any time soon. Many concede to their training obligations and “tick the box” demonstrating they made an effort to educate their employees, in hopes the training “works and does what it’s supposed to”; that this will assist them in court in the event of tragedy or loss in their workplace.

No employer I know would ever want to see their workers harmed during their workday for ethical reasons, in some cases, equally supported by the reality of prosecution and legal fees that would consume their bottom line.

Employers: Have you actually asked what was improved since the training workers received? Are the workers using the information they received and did they share what they learned with you about the course?

How do they use what they learned to improve your organizational health and safety program? Are you simply happy because it was easy to get the training booked and the workers are happy with how easy the instructor was to get along with?

Organizations offering “Train the Trainer” (TTT) certification programs to the public are appealing to employers from a price point perspective. The employers fully buy in that the candidate they send to receive this title and credibility will then be “a qualified person” as dubbed by a training provider that’s established. Because the certificate says they are.

That said, its a great option to send a well suited candidate for training in a subject they’re already familiar with, who has a drive to be better and improve your organization’s initiatives. Use a reputable and well known provider who has a robust course that dissects the subject matter and puts the new trainer through real-life challenges from a classroom perspective over multiple days. This is a better option and may likely be more in line with value for money. The course should also involve a variety of visual, theoretical and practical means to be able to make the content relatable. Additionally, the material is required to be accommodating, include/ introduce a means of professionally navigating misconduct or inappropriate/ disruptive participants. This is key for some organizations where contempt towards new trainers may arise from the existing workforce.

I struggle with how a provider offers Confined Space Train the Trainer Courses completed in 1.5 days or less. A decent Confined Space course should be at minimum, one day as awareness, with a second day added for more opportunity to use and understand practical applications and different varieties/ examples of equipment to consider to support the employer program.

The average employer fantasizes of money saved through TTT over the long term by training their employees in house, through their new found health and safety champion on the one subject they’ve been educated in.

Does the person you’re sending to eventually coach and educate your employees have any passion for OHS or have a health and safety background? Were they volun-told to go?

Employers, do you know what qualified means in the health and safety industry? How about being competent? If these terms aren’t in the TTT program you bought, or if neither of these terms can be identified in the person you’re sending, the results from your decision could be very compromising in the event of tragedy. Each of these terms carry significant weight when you’re choosing a training provider to permit you to offer their program which may not even actually be the quality it needs to be to begin with.

Employers: Have you actually asked what was improved since the training workers received? Are the workers using the information they received (and you paid for), and did they share what they learned with you about the course? How do they use what they learned to improve your organizational health and safety program? Are you simply happy because they’re happy?

Have you even asked the provider what’s in their program? Who, exactly, from the staff of your chosen training provider, is taking the accountability for training your employee to train the rest of your workforce? Does the trainer training your worker to BE a trainer understand anything about adult training principles? What are their credentials?

Do they understand the differences between standards and law? Do they understand how to interpret and locate key information to support your program from the local jurisdiction/ Occupational Health and Safety Act?

Have you considered that the person offering this training on the employer’s behalf is now accountable for administering information and best practices for injury and illness prevention they may or may not remember from the training to their co-workers/ YOUR workforce?

While this barrage of questions seems daunting and likely makes you irritated, challenged and uncomfortable to read, it should.

Some of the issue remains with employers still unwilling to come to the table and truly accept their health and safety obligations by working with their teams and identifying what their teams training needs are by opening discussion in health and safety. Employers are responsible for providing worker information, instruction and supervision. Have you noticed many employers can’t identify what a hazard actually is?

The training industry is plagued by overnight providers with no credentials, credibility, education or true experience. This unethical approach devalues and cannibalizes health and safety, and we proudly support the concept of regulating the health and safety industry to weed these organizations out.

The problem is there are too many people claiming to be professionals and not enough regulators to investigate the quality of the material being offered by pop up companies saying they know health and safety. While the JHSC and Working at Heights CPO Approved courses are administratively rigorous and demanding at times, the core value of ensuring quality training and qualification of trainers and providers is where we need to be looking.

On many occasions, our clients have asked if Construction Workplace Safety Training Ltd. offers train the trainer courses in certain subjects, and my answer is, and always will be a very polite “no” followed by a very Canadian “sorry”.

We could make more money if we did, it doesn’t align with my values as a professional, nor would I want to find that someone with no health and safety acumen was instructing my program and erroneously advised or instructed their coworker resulting in tragedy. Proudly, the community of training providers and professionals we align ourselves with feel the same about our trade, and the professionals who approach us to work with them, return for this reason.

Choose your provider wisely, ask for a syllabus to see what’s in the course, and know that the lowest number on the block for pricing should send a flag. If you’re an employer of 12 regular full time people, reach out and find out how we can help you and your company get where you need to go.

Still have questions? Please visit our website

Craig Nicholson, COHS, DOHS is the director at Construction Workplace Safety Training Ltd.


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