Punishment by Training

September 20 2015
By: Terry L. Mathis

Many organizations send workers to training after they are involved in workplace accidents. Often, the intention is good: to help the worker better understand the risk and how to handle it. However, there are at least two potential problems with doing so. The first risk is the worker might already completely understand the situation and the appropriate response, but simply did not practice what they knew to do. In this case, re-training will not solve the problem and might demonstrate to the worker that management reaction to accidents is inappropriate and ineffective.

The second potential risk is training becomes viewed as a punishment. If everyone who makes a mistake is sent back to training, it is easy for workers to form this perception. If this perception becomes prevalent, it can diminish the effectiveness of all training. The training experience can change from one of learning and preparation to one of punitive action. Workers can tune out during training and try to endure it rather than benefit from it. Before automatically sending workers back to training after an accident, organizations should determine if the accident resulted from a lack of training or knowledge, or was influenced by other factors. Only knowledge deficits benefit from training and other causes should be handled differently.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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