Safety Training – Employee Mentoring
In David Lynn’s book, Principle to Practice, he talks about why it is so important to establish a formal mentoring program. An employee mentor teaches new employees to do their jobs safely.
You accumulate useful knowledge listening to an instructor, but you learn the practical hands-on functions of your job from those you work with every day. On-the-job training is a natural part of everyone’s learning process.
An employee peer-to-peer mentoring process utilizes trusted employees to develop positive safety attitudes and disseminate critical information to new employees. The mentor focuses on training new employees in their first 30 days.
When I started work as a Compliance Officer at OSHA in 1992, I spent the majority of my first four months in a room the size of two cubicles with four other people. The objective was to study OSHA standards! We did this every day for four months! Can you imagine spending eight hours a day, five days a week trapped in a small room staring at the Code of Federal Regulations? How exciting is that? Better yet, how effective is that?
The training was not an orientation but rather an initiation. I don’t know how much I learned the first four months in my OSHA role, but I – along with my coworkers – survived the imprisonment. The next stage of the program was MUCH more useful. We shadowed experienced Compliance Officers on their inspections, and I began to see how people did the job I would learn to do. The experienced Compliance Officers were my mentors and they taught me the hands-on details of the job. That is where I really learned the most. Over the next 9 months, I learned every facet of the inspection and report writing process with a mentor. As I progressed, the Compliance Officers would let me do more of the job. It was an incremental process that taught me the details. After a year, I passed a final evaluation and began performing inspections solo.
The lesson I learned in my OSHA experience is that “book learning” is important – but it is not where you learn how to do your job. You learn your job from people. Companies with a history of exceptional safety performance have systems that take advantage of the power of peer-to-peer learning. Give safety-minded employees an opportunity to instill their safety values into new employees via mentoring. This helps perpetuate a culture that embraces safety.
An effective mentoring program should accomplish specific goals. The program should identify safety-conscious leaders in your workforce. The program should offer an opportunity to train the mentors. The mentors should evaluate and coach new employees. Then, the mentors can then evaluate the new employee’s safety awareness after a predetermined time. The goal is to add structure to the way employees learn to do their jobs and empower employees to train new people.