Employee EngagementLearning & Development

Real Virtual Safety

A company discovers its training has devolved—and then does something about it.

By Eric Glass 
An award-winning company, HOLT CAT is the authorized Caterpillar® heavy equipment and engine dealer in 118 Texas counties. Established in 1933, HOLT® sells, services and rents Cat equipment, engines and generators for construction, mining, industrial, petroleum and agricultural applications. In 2010, it was one of only 15 dealers in North and South America to receive Caterpillars’ “Circle of Excellence” award in recognition of consistent, high-quality performance.
While workforce safety has always been a priority, HOLT CAT owners Peter Holt and Allen Archer realized in 2005 that they had unintentionally let it slip to the back burner while they were preoccupied with building their business. As they began refocusing on safety as a core value, Holt and Archer decided to ask their 1,800 employees for their opinions on where things stood. Using a 100-question safety perception survey with categories including recognition, training, and leadership, they were surprised to find that training—an area they thought was adequately covered—received particularly poor marks.
In response to the safety perception survey, the company assembled four cross-functional continuous quality improvement teams (later reduced to three) to address specific low-scoring areas.
The training team learned that the company’s approach, in which a few contractors and in-house professionals periodically taught safety classes on-site, was not nearly frequent or comprehensive enough to satisfy employees’ requirements. “We needed to cover all of our locations with not three but 10 to 12 topics a year,” said Noe Cisneros, director of safety, security, and environmental culture.
The investigating team asked the question: “How do we logistically provide up to 12 quality classes a year for every location with no exceptions?”
The Solution: A Web-based Training System
Upon evaluating the options, the answer turned out to be PureSafety’s web-based learning safety management system (LSMS). A national company based in Franklin, Tenn., PureSafety provides enterprise-wide software solutions, education and industry expertise in support of workplace health and safety efforts. Key features of the LSMS include ease of use, content creation and incident management tools, access to a library of more than 650 course titles (including many in Spanish), and course completion and exam tracking capabilities.
“The people look current, not like they were from the ‘50s,” notes one employee who recalls an ‘old-school,’ dry approach to video safety training.
Employees reported the narration interesting and the pacing accommodated different learning styles. According to Cisneros, Spanish translations were equally as well-received.

Management appreciates the system’s ability to easily track course completion rates and exam performance at all locations. Employee compliance and test scores were consistently high across the board, in part because the system is easy to use.
“We were impressed when we learned that PureSafety offers an intuitive, accessible online learning management system that covers every possible subject we would need and want to share with our employees,” Cisneros said. “The support from PureSafety was outstanding from the start. Unlike other vendors who say they don’t know or ‘it can’t be done,’ we found them to be very creative and innovative. They were willing to work with us to satisfy our needs. Implementing LSMS was one of the most seamless projects I have ever worked on; it was as easy as turning on a light switch.”
Another key barometer of success with the training system has been a corresponding decline in work-related injuries. In the four years since implementing the LSMS, the company’s injury incidence rate has dropped by about two-thirds, saving the company thousands of dollars.
Behavior Change
While pleased with these results, Cisneros reported that the greatest benefit has been employee buy-in for safety principles and long-term behavior change. The LSMS is an integral part of a broader company initiative to instill a safety culture by keeping information fresh and relevant. Other elements include management by walking around, periodic safety campaigns focused on specific risks and encouraging employees to share their ideas on ways to improve safety practices.
Some of the company’s safety efforts feature performance incentives such as gift cards at major retailers. For example, company drivers who fall under Department of Transportation regulations have a chance to earn points toward gift certificates if they undergo voluntary quarterly vehicle inspections. Volunteers with excellent scores also are pleased when they are recognized in the company’s newsletter.
With the LSMS and other complementary programs in place, the company no longer has just a few experts using safety language in an attempt to connect with an uninformed workforce.
“We now have 1,800 safety practitioners who can speak intelligently about the different types of exposures we face,” Cisneros said. “They can articulate specific issues affecting their roles in the company, model their behavior and apply what they have learned in day-to-day operations.”
Eric Glass, EHS and risk management donsultant at PureSafety, has an extensive background relating to HR and risk management consulting.

Tags: Engaged Workforce, HRO Today Global, Learning

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