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Labour shortages risk increase in workplace accidents

Labour shortages caused by closed borders could be putting life and limb at risk because companies are struggling to find the capacity to spare the time for staff to go on safety training, and therefore some are neglecting health and safety compliance.

General Manager of New Zealand health and safety training provider Besafe Training Ltd, Jason Braithwaite, said he knows of two companies that WorkSafe shut down recently because they had not met site health and safety compliance requirements. This demonstrates that putting off health and safety training makes staff vulnerable and puts the business at risk.

"On the other hand, it is increasingly common for clients to request weekend training, which can be counterproductive when staff have already worked a 40 or 60 hour week. This is not a good idea because it takes away family and resting time, and people come into the classroom with the wrong attitude because they resent using up their weekend."

Braithwaite says it's happening because companies don't want to take staff out of operations for two, three or four days as this makes them short-staffed and that, in itself, is hazardous. It's a rock and a hard place.

Some employers are deferring training they are legally required to do or required to have in place within the terms of their contract. As a result, one client was shut down at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day for several weeks.

It's a problem digital learning can help solve, but some employers are resistant.

"The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown – past and present – is helping overcome the lack of trust some employers have in digital learning, particularly since a blend of online and classroom can reduce time spent offsite from two days to just four hours.

Braithwaite says many employers have concerns around how effective the health and safety training will be when an employee – some of whom may have literacy challenges – is left to learn independently of a classroom setting.

"Apart from being better than nothing, digital learning is more effective because learners cannot lean on others in the class. They learn as individuals and are assessed as individuals. There is always a tutor available via email or on the other end of the phone.

"I would urge employers to embrace digital learning for health and safety because it helps keep staff and the business safer and improves productivity and profits."

A blend of digital and classroom learning can be done over time, particularly if an employer schedules an hour a day, on a roster basis, for staff to do digital learning. On rainy days, employees can get online instead of hanging around and still keep their weekends free.

The current Covid-19 lockdown will only add to the time pressure by putting companies under the pump, creating more significant risks for staff and putting the business in danger of non-compliance.

Keeping your workers safer, (more) aware and productive onsite is a fine balancing act, but it can be done by taking action on the following steps”

1. Conduct a training needs analysis

Do a training needs analysis to identify significant risks and gaps in health and safety training and compliance.

2. Set aside time and facilities

All employers need to do is set aside a dedicated space and some computers to get started.

"You could have a group of staff sit down together for a toolbox session and group discussion. Put it on the roster. In just an hour or so a day over eight days, they will have completed the theory component, and practical offsite training should only take them out for four or so hours," Braithwaite says.

3. Appoint an internal person as a support

An internal support person or programme leader, along with your training provider's tutor, will achieve significantly enhanced learning outcomes compared to onsite classroom learning at a training facility.

"The eLearning material is the same as the classroom resource, but it's less disruptive, and that will become even more important as the current Covid-19 lock time puts construction companies and manufacturers under increased pressure, particularly as the busiest time of year – the summer season – approaches.

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