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Safety training: Moving with the times

05 February 2018

The workforce is changing and so is the role of training in the occupational health and safety space. Millennials will soon become the majority of the global working population and the safety industry is rethinking training to cater for their needs and expectations. Prabhu Soundarrajan, global connected worker leader, Honeywell Industrial Safety and Tony Downes, global process safety advisor, Honeywell Performance Materials & Technologies, explain more    

Employers are legally required to provide workers – including temporary contractors or self-employed individuals operating under their control and direction – with appropriate health and safety training. Yet, EU-OSHA sees ‘insufficient training’ as one of the key factors behind workplace injuries and illnesses, especially among younger workers. Increasingly, millennials are over-represented in temporary and precarious jobs that often lack appropriate supervision or training; as a result, they are up to 50% more likely to suffer workplace injuries than their older colleagues.

Millennials are the generation of workers that, more than any other, demands more and better training.

Digital world

As a recent PwC survey suggests, "one of the defining characteristics of the millennial generation is their affinity with the digital world. They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media being the norm and expect instant access to information.”

When it comes to training, millennials expect a range of digital learning styles and delivery methods. Such expectations may now be met by some of the most recent advancements in Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled safety technology. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE), embedded with connectivity technology such as RFID, NFC and Bluetooth, means that workers can now use their smartphones to transform PPE into an edge device that can collect and transmit data. In doing so, millennials can take advantage of some of the technology they’re most familiar with to address the training gap. For example, a worker can interrogate PPE and visualise immediate, on-demand training on the use of that equipment, including tutorial videos, check-lists or instructions in an intuitive environment.

A worker could even use a smartphone app to interrogate a security gate equipped with RFID or Bluetooth identifiers and immediately visualise – on a check-list – whether they have appropriate training and are wearing the right PPE to access a hazardous area. On-demand training apps could then give workers the option to receive the e-training they need to close any gaps on the spot. Safety managers in remote locations can automatically receive data about qualifications, on their smartphones, via the cloud. 

Virtual Reality (VR), one of the key drivers behind the fourth industrial revolution, is already opening up unprecedented training opportunities. VR operations simulators, for example, provide task-specific training in locations where it may be expensive or hazardous to deliver traditional on-site training. They give field operators a credible and realistic experience, helping them retain what they’ve learned by practising tasks in an immersive 3D virtual environment. 

The integration of voice recognition and live video recording technology, along with an Augmented Reality (AR) display attached to PPE such as helmets means millennial workers will have on-demand training and access to drawings or manuals to complete their work safely and quickly.

Live video recording can document the successful completion of a task so that it can be used to explain the process, step by step, to other workers. This type of training will appeal to millennials who are likely to have grown up in the era of YouTube tutorial videos.

Safety training is at a turning point and some of the technology millennials are already accustomed to in the consumer space is driving significant improvements in the way training is designed and delivered at work. This will benefit the entire workforce across generations and not only those at the younger end of the spectrum. Ultimately, a more connected approach to training means moving from a policy-based approach to an information-driven approach to workplace risk reduction, regardless of age.