How Utilities Will Ensure Safety Skills as Their Workforce Retires

According to a 2017 report by the US Department of Energy, a quarter of all electric and natural gas utilities employees in the United States will be at retirement age within the next five years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average worker in the industry is nearing 50.

With such a notable number of the utility workforce closing in on retirement, extra measures are required to guarantee that employees are current and knowledgeable regarding important safety skills. A Smart Market report by Dodge Data & Analytics shows that businesses that institute a robust safety skills training program report decreased injuries as well as increased ability to attract new staff and retain existing employees.

The most imperative aspect is that your program works for your organization. Knowing what factors to consider could help you create a system ensuring that safety skills are a top priority for everyone from upper management to your newest worker.

Foster Awareness of Safety Skills

Increasing employee awareness of the importance of on-the-job safety measures is the best way to encourage engagement and personal investment in safety skills and training. The good news is that workers already value workplace safety.

A report by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago shows that 85% of workers rank safety first in importance ahead of other labor standards, including overtime pay, family leave, and minimum wage.

To increase awareness, it’s essential to provide information on the safety and health hazards associated with the type of work performed. Emphasize that safety skills training is most effective when everyone is involved. Open the floor to all questions and concerns during training. Promote an open-door policy between management and staff for any inquiries, requests, or issues in the future, as well.

Willingness to invest in workplace safety is also essential. Bear in mind that the costs of correcting injuries and illnesses far exceed the costs related to preventing work-related hazards. Businesses that consistently invest in safety skills training and other precautionary measures enjoy decreased absenteeism and employee turnover, as well as increased productivity, morale, and overall bottom line.

Increasing the understanding and appreciation of safety skills could improve attitudes, create a safety-minded culture, and encourage cooperation in both safety training and on-the-job awareness.

Identify Existing and Potential Hazards

To ensure safety skills throughout your workforce, you must have a clear understanding of the likeliest and the most critical potential risks of the tasks performed, as well as the job sites and equipment utilized.

Begin by reviewing records of prior safety-related incidents. Look for any trends and pay special attention to accidents or injuries that should have been avoided with proper precautions.

Be sure to review other information already available that has been previously identified. These might include equipment manuals and safety data sheets, insurance, and consultation reports, and data provided by government agencies such as OSHA.

Inspect workplace and job sites for both obvious and latent hazards. Address any findings before going forward. Reach out to employees and management for input, as they could be your best resource for experience-based ideas and information.

Finally, put a plan in place.

Train Management First

When your management team is well-versed and invested in workplace safety, employees will value safety skills, as well. Begin with a clear safety policy statement. Designate a point person who has the authority to implement policies and procedures. Depending on the size of your organization, you might opt to assign this role company-wide and by department.

Ensure that all members of management receive and comprehend thorough safety training. If those in supervisory positions are not aware of safety procedures, equipment management, and incident reporting practices, these aspects can’t become part of your employee culture. Well-trained managers guarantee that your entire workforce will be clear on — and follow through with — your organization’s safety plan.

Provide the essential elements for safety skills as well as regulation and support. Train managers on responses to reports from employees as well as the proper flow for handling concerns or incident reports. Coach supervisors on incident investigation procedures and techniques.

Hold regular safety meetings for all members of management. Make sure upper management attends to emphasize the concept that workplace safety is of the utmost importance across the board. Reinforce awareness and knowledge of responsibilities. Begin traditional meetings with “Safety Shares” as well. Ask attendees to report steps taken to improve safety since the previous meeting.

Provide Adequate Workforce Training

Of course, employees also require adequate training above all else. Train workers safety skills based on their specific roles, including any equipment they might use or hazards they could encounter.

Teach staff members how to recognize potential hazards as well as your policies and procedures for reporting risks along with incidents, accidents, or injuries that occur on the job. Explain responsibilities in the incident investigation. Let workers know that their participation is essential and clarify to whom and in what manner they should report or follow up.

Include program evaluation following safety skills training. Input from those with their “boots on the ground” is indispensable to ongoing safety and training development. Allow room for your safety skills training to expand and evolve as equipment, procedures, job sites, and your workforce changes, as well as when you learn of other unforeseen hazards or receive valuable insights from your staff.

Provide relevant ongoing training as necessary. When there are changes in equipment, processes, materials, or facilities, as well as new workers or current employees who are assigned new tasks, make sure safety skills training materials are readily available.

WestNet Learning believes effective safety skills training could boost an organization’s productivity, increase consistent outcomes, and help develop a competitive market advantage. With an adaptable LMS that allows clients to customize their coursework, WestNet can ensure your entire workforce receives the most relevant training and that all courses are coherent, even across multiple workplace locations.

If you would like to more tips on ensuring safety skills, even as more of your workforce retires, or want to learn more about how an LMS could help you improve your employee safety program, reach out to schedule a 1-on-1 safety strategy session today.