When you think of safety training, you probably think of topics like slips, trips and falls; forklift, electrical and nail gun safety; hazard communication; and PPE and OSHA. Those topics are the foundation for a solid safety training program, but the modern world raises the need for nontraditional topics for your safety training program to keep your employees protected and secure at work and in their personal lives.
The U.S. is averaging one active shooter incident per day in 2019. The gun safety and gun rights discussion in our country is divisive and escalating, and we’re unlikely to see a solution in the near future is. So, how do we train our employees to survive violence in the workplace?
Last year, we partnered with a company that provides this training to companies, schools and places of worship. It came to us to create a series of active shooter training videos to accompany its live, onsite training classes. The topics included rushing the shooter to disarm him, evacuating the space, barricading in an office, applying first aid and working with first responders.
Having the programs filmed in our office, using our employees, opened our eyes to the new reality of what it takes to train employees to be safe in the workplace. Learning situational awareness is key to safety, and it applies to other aspects of a person’s life, too. For example, we perform many activities, such as attending a large sporting event, parking at the airport or walking to our car at night, on autopilot. Situational awareness teaches employees to ask critical questions to be better prepared, no matter where they are or whom they are with:
- Where are the exits to evacuate?
- Where could you hide and barricade yourself?
- What could you use as a weapon?
- Where do you keep your first aid kit or bleeding control kit?
My company recently moved into a new office space on the fourth floor of a larger office building. Our space has three doors, all of which operate on a key card system. The key card system was new to us and a welcome addition to keeping our employees safe. It extends the emergency exit issue beyond a workplace violence situation to a fire, bomb threat or power outage. Our employees are spread across a larger space, so their safety is a larger challenge than it was before.
This topic extends beyond the daily work space and ties into situational awareness. Being aware of emergency exits is a practical skill for employees when traveling for business or pleasure, attending a conference or meeting, or even celebrating a child’s birthday at an arcade or movie theater. You never know when a situation will occur when you need to quickly vacate the premises.
(As I write this article, I realize I know where one set of stairs is in our new building, but what if that one is blocked? There has to be one at the other end of the hall. Mental note: Find it!)
Every day, an average of 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. According to the National Safety Council, more than 70% of U.S. employers feel a “direct impact of prescription drug misuse in their workplaces.”
The opioid addiction crisis becomes a safety issue when an addict puts others at risk by, for example, operating heavy machinery while drowsy. You might notice an employee making more impulsive decisions while driving a company vehicle and putting themselves, their cargo and the vehicle in danger.
Providing training for employees and managers on the warning signs and side effects of opioid misuse can give your company the opportunity to appropriately intervene. It may also help employees address the issue with a family member.
Digital Stress and Addiction
Some experts say that the internet – more specifically, social media – can be addictive in the same way as drugs, alcohol or gambling. One type of social media addiction is shown as an expression of hostility, meanness or cruelty. It can manifest as a personal, harassing attack or public shaming and humiliation. Another type encompasses typical behavior you expect with stress, like anxiety and panic attacks, isolation, anger, and depression.
It might seem odd to provide training to your employees because they are addicted to their phones, but it is just one odd reality of our time. Keep your employees safe from the hostility and harassment that could be triggered by digital stress of their co-workers. In addition, if they’re driving or working while distracted by their phones, they could harm themselves and others.
Training Must Evolve
Safety is the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Employees need to feel safe, not only at work but in their personal lives as well, in order to reach the next level. Expanding your training content to include topics outside of the traditional safety training will help.
The world we work in is always changing, with new technologies, products and other factors. The workforce is also continually changing as new generations enter it, and diversity increases cultural considerations. Your training must evolve along with the changing environment and workforce.
We can no longer focus on “check-the-box” safety training. Our responsibility as employers has grown. Not only do we need to provide a safe environment for our employees at work, but we need to make sure our employees arrive home safely. Training on topics like active shooter situations, emergency exits, opioid addiction and digital stress are practical examples of safety training that can apply to employees’ work and personal lives.