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How to Create a Successful Compliance Training Program

Toby Graham

How to Create a Successful Compliance Training Program

Want to save lives and money? Improve your compliance training.

Compliance training is the key to keeping employees safe and employers out of trouble with regulators like the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. It’s at the core of any functional workplace health and safety program.

In fact, almost every workplace accident that’s ever occurred could have been mitigated or prevented entirely if workers had undergone better compliance training. Report after report proves it. Take a look at this incident, for example. Or this one. Or this one.

Many health and safety professionals pay close attention to these stories and are well aware of the importance of compliance training. And yet countless companies neglect compliance training, or fail to do it right. They struggle to adequately educate the workers of their workforces on the essential components of their jobs. For workers at these companies, training is frequently dull and unengaging. Perhaps the learning management system is out of date, or the courses don’t cover everything they should. Or maybe compliance training just isn’t a priority. For whatever reason, health and safety training information doesn’t “stick,” particularly during a crisis.

As a result, people get hurt—or worse—and the business faces hefty penalties along with lost productivity, lower morale, reputational damage, higher workers’ compensation premiums, and the other costs that follow avoidable safety incidents.

Don’t let lackluster training jeopardize your people and your bottom line. Here’s everything you need to know to improve your approach, from what compliance training is and why it’s important to the types of compliance training, the government organizations that mandate compliance training, and how to develop engaging compliance training.

What Is Compliance Training?

Compliance training is everything a company does to educate workers on how to do their jobs safely, effectively, and in line with all applicable laws and standards.

That last part is what people mean when they talk about “compliance.” There are various rules at federal, state, and local levels governing the ways in which people are supposed to work. Some rules apply to all workers while other rules apply to professionals in specific industries and roles. For instance, only some people need to be trained and certified to operate forklifts, but all employees should be trained on general health and safety topics such as emergency action plans and fire prevention.

Compliance training should also cover any and all internal health and safety policies and controls a company has in place.

But the purpose of compliance training goes beyond simply educating workers about the rules that apply to their jobs. You need to ensure workers actually follow those rules. It’s about more than “checking the box”—that is, providing the minimum education necessary to avoid legal risks and fines associated with noncompliance. Effective training promotes lasting behavioral changes and empowers employees to work as safely and productively as possible.

Why Is Compliance Training Important?

There are countless benefits to compliance training. Here are just a few:

1. Compliance training keeps people safe. Your workers need to know how to do their jobs safely to avoid injuries, illnesses, and accidents.

2. Compliance training keeps companies out of trouble. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and other federal, state, and local agencies require you to provide compliance training for your employees. If you don’t, expect to face investigations, fines, and even criminal prosecution.

3. Compliance training minimizes expenses. By investing in your compliance training program, you’ll cut down on costs related to insurance, lost productivity, equipment replacements, legal fees… The list goes on.

4. Compliance training establishes the foundation for a lasting safety culture. If you can effectively educate your employees about the hazards they face, ways to avoid those hazards, and the reasons why their health and safety matters, you’ll create a team of safety leaders and advocates driven to continually look out for themselves and each other. They’ll not only maintain your health and safety program but improve outcomes over time.

Of course, regardless of the benefits, compliance training is mandatory. You have to do it.

Organizations that Mandate Compliance Training

Various regulatory organizations mandate compliance training in the United States—and penalize employers for not providing required training to workers.

  • OSHA requires all employers to provide their workers with adequate workplace health and safety training under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970. Numerous OSHA standards (such as the Hazard Communication Standard, machine guarding standards, and personal protective equipment standards) contain specific training requirements.
  • The EPA requires many employers to train workers to safely handle and dispose of hazardous substances such as asbestos, used aerosol cans, and more.
  • The DOT requires employers to provide training to all workers involved in the transportation of hazardous materials, as well as training on safety topics such as safe driving, forklift safety, and more.
  • Depending on where you do business, there may be additional state and local authorities with their own workforce training requirements to be aware of.

For more information about which standards apply to your workforce and which regulatory authorities you should pay attention to, please contact us.

Types of Compliance Training

Compliance training takes many different forms. It may be delivered on-site and in-person, virtually online, or through a hybrid approach. Methods of compliance training include…

  • presentations
  • webinars
  • videos
  • self-paced learning modules
  • group activities and discussions
  • simulations
  • and more

Regardless of how it’s delivered, compliance training needs to cover certain topics at minimum. For instance, OSHA requires (PDF) every “general industry” employer to educate the workforce about the following:

  • exit routes and emergency planning
  • powered platforms, manlifts, and vehicle-mounted work platforms
  • occupational health and environmental control
  • hazardous materials
  • personal protective equipment
  • general environmental controls
  • medical services and first aid
  • fire protection
  • materials handling and storage
  • machinery and machine guarding
  • welding, cutting, and brazing
  • electrical safety-related work practices
  • commercial diving operations
  • toxic and hazardous substances

Keep in mind this is just a brief and incomplete overview of the topics compliance training needs to cover. Many of these topics have subtopics, along with specialized requirements and considerations for certain types of employees. Other industries, including maritime, construction, and agriculture, have different training requirements, and regulators at the state and municipal levels may obligate employers to provide additional training.

Employees should undergo training before they start on the job and take refresher training periodically thereafter. Training should also be provided to employees whenever they’re given new jobs and any time new hazards, equipment, or processes are introduced to the workplace.

How to Develop Engaging Compliance Training

If you’re looking for help improving your compliance training, you’ve come to the right place. KPA is a recognized industry leader in compliance training. We’ve written numerous articles about how to improve and optimize workforce training. Here are some of our top tips:

Tip 1: Know your audience.

This is the essential ingredient in any approach to training. Without it, content, technology, and processes don’t matter. If the training isn’t engaging, it doesn’t work.

All effective training is centered on the learner. Knowing your audience means understanding the individual or group taking the training.

To get to know your audience, you’ll need to answer a few questions. Whether we’re talking about a single employee or a 50-person department, the same considerations apply.

Read more.

Tip 2: Use real-world examples.

The most effective training makes use of narratives. Why? Because humans are wired to respond to stories. Tangible examples not only help introduce a topic, but add character and detail throughout, acting as a framework for a particular subject matter. From broad strokes (e.g. what a respirator is, why it matters) to the finer points (e.g. respirator use checklist), learners can return to a palpable scenario and set of characters.

For these reasons and more, the use of real-life examples is one of the key principles of effective workforce training.

Read more.

Tip 3: Assess learners’ prior knowledge.

One of the biggest challenges of workforce training is designing education for people of different experience levels. A course about forklifts, for instance, needs to be engaging to a long-time forklift driver as well as someone who’s never operated a vehicle. If one category of learner is left out, the company could inadvertently create a compliance gap or injury risk.

The same is true for mandatory topics such as harassment prevention. Everyone may think they know how to identify and stop harassment, but you can’t just take employees at their word.

Effective training accounts for all kinds of learners by assessing prior knowledge. It doesn’t make assumptions about an individual’s experience. Instead, it gives people an opportunity to demonstrate what they know (or don’t know) about a topic, so they’re beginning at the place that makes sense to them.

Read more.

Tip 4: Reinforce training through repetition.

The information we tend to remember is the information that has meaning to us. Nothing’s going to linger in that brain unless it’s interesting or useful in some way.

The value of the information needs to be clear to both sides: the learner and the instructor. Remember: you’re training your workers on how to do their jobs better and more safely. You’re not teaching to the test. The information has to stick and it has to make a difference—it needs to change people’s behaviors.

Effective repetition is simple in theory, but not always obvious in execution. It starts with instruction (“here’s what you need to know about this topic”) and gets reinforced through practice (“try this interactive exercise,” “see if you can pass this true/false quiz”).

Read more.

Looking for additional compliance training tips? Check out our articles:

For a comprehensive guide to compliance training, download KPA’s ebook: The Keys to Better Workforce Training.

Get Award-Winning Compliance Training from KPA

KPA offers award-winning EHS and compliance training designed to help employees improve their performance on the job. Scenario-based learning modules educate learners on the laws and regulations that apply to their jobs. Our courses feature high-level interactivity and video-based content designed to hold learners’ interest and keep them engaged.

We provide a combination of online training and on-site training delivered by over 125 certified EHS and HR consultants. KPA’s courses are interactive, built for learner engagement, and supported by a combination of powerful software and on-call expert consulting.

KPA’s training team has developed an extensive library of EHS, HR, and F&I training courses to meet your needs.

Here’s a sample of the courses we offer:

  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Anti-Harassment Training
  • Back Injury Prevention
  • Customer Information Security
  • DOT Hazardous Materials Training
  • Emergency Response
  • Privacy Notices
  • Ethics in the Workplace
  • Federal Hazardous Waste Management
  • Hazard Communication
  • AC 609: Working with MVAC Systems
  • Heat Illness Prevention
  • IRS Section 8300: Cash Transaction Reporting
  • Safe Driving
  • Reputation Management and Complaint Resolution
  • Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention
  • Red Flags Rule
  • Abusive Workplace Conduct Prevention
  • Workplace Violence Prevention (including active shooter response)

Spanish Content

Many of our HR and Safety courses are available in Spanish, making it easy for you to keep your Spanish-speaking workforce trained and up-to-date, and maximize compliance throughout your organization.

On-Demand Course Availability

Course development supports best practices in the field, using the ADDIE model of instructional design—the standard guideline for building effective online training.

Over 10,000 organizations, including automotive dealerships, insurance brokers, warehouses and distribution centers, food and beverage companies, and manufacturers count on KPA for their compliance training and risk management solutions.

Learn more.

Toby Graham

Toby manages the marketing communications team here at KPA. She's on a quest to help people tell clear, fun stories that their audience can relate to. She's a HUGE sugar junkie...and usually starts wandering the halls looking for cookies around 3pm daily.

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