The ANSI/ASSP Z490.1 EHS Training Standard is currently being revised.
To better understand the voluntary standard and take an inside look at the coming revisions, we posed some questions to Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Customer Advocacy Manager at Vector Solutions.
SNA: How does ANSI/ASSP Z490.1 combine with an organization’s existing safety management system?
Jeff: The Z490.1 standard should be an integrated, aligned part of an organization’s safety management system. Safety training shouldn’t be a siloed, isolated effort that’s unconnected to real safety hazards (think here of the worst kind of compliance safety training) or that’s not integrated, aligned, and coordinated with other workplace safety efforts (think here of the hierarchy of controls for a simplified model of this).
Taking one step back, we could consider this question by looking at the ANSI/ASSP Z10 standard for occupational health and safety management systems. A few of the big themes in that safety management standard are that:
- workplace organizations are complicated and/or complex
- safety professionals need to use systems thinking to recognize interdependencies and relationships within the workplace system
- learning is essential to safety management and learning often involves feedback loops
- safety professionals must try to break down silos that keep them from working with other departments and employees outside of safety, and
- workers must be engaged in risk identification and other aspects of the safety management system.
All that we just said about safety management applies to safety training as well.
SNA: What is being revised in the training standard?
Jeff: I’m part of the Z490 committee doing the revisions; there are a total of 12 or so safety professionals on the committee making the revisions, and the committee is chaired by Dr. Daniel Snyder.
In terms of what’s going to change, everything is up for grabs, and we’re having vigorous, wide-ranging discussions and debates about those issues right now. That said, to try to give a somewhat-more-specific answer, there are a few bigger things we’re trying to put into place.
One is to align the Z490 standards more closely with other national standards related to safety, such as the safety management standard we already discussed and the risk management standard.
Another is to align Z490.1 more closely with safety training recommendations from safety organizations from all over the world, including OSHA, BCSP, INSHPO, and more.
Yet another is to include more emphasis on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).
We’re also looking at restructuring the standard to reveal the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation) training development model more directly that’s at its roots, while also explaining other training development models, such as SAM (Successive Approximation Model) or Agile.
A big one is that we’re talking about integrating the existing (and somewhat new) Z490.2 EHS training standard for online EHS training into Z490.1 and getting rid of Z490.2. And there are lots of discussions about restricting the current document, perhaps making it more similar in structure to the Z10 standard, including the creation of a guidance document. So, even in naming just a few things, I’ve named a lot!
Revisions will be done sometime around the end of 2021 and/or the beginning of 2022.
SNA: What is a training needs analysis/assessment?
Jeff: This is represented by that first A in ADDIE, which stands for analysis.
The idea is that before you begin creating or delivering safety training, you need to step back and investigate a lot of things:
- What is the real problem you’re trying to solve and what’s causing it?
- Is safety training the best solution for that problem or are there better solutions?
- If safety training is a proper solution, what do you currently know about the learners and what do you need to know? For example, what is their current level of knowledge and skill related to the topic?
- What types of training do they prefer to complete and what are their work schedules (so you can schedule training)?
- What will the learners have to do to demonstrate that they’ve completed the training successfully?
SNA: How does the creation of learning objectives help focus safety training?
Jeff: A learning objective is what the learners must be able to do to prove they’ve completed the safety training in a satisfactory manner and are now competent to apply the knowledge and skills on the job.
Your learning objectives are the reason you’re designing safety training and, once you’re created them properly, they should serve as your guidelines when you create the test or assessment workers will complete at the end of the training, the practice exercises learners will practice with during training, the content you’ll deliver to the learners during the training, and everything you do while delivering the training.
Learning objectives are also helpful because they tell the learners what the training will be about. That allows them to focus their attention on the objectives and to regularly self-assess their own knowledge/skill competence during the training against those objectives (something known as metacognition).
SNA: Designing and developing safety training sounds similar. How are the two different?
Jeff: After the analysis in ADDIE is complete, safety training then moves into those two D’s you’re asking about — design and development.
The simplest way to explain this is by using an analogy. Architects create blueprints for buildings before construction workers build them. The same basic idea holds in training as well. During the design phase, you’ll create the “blueprint” for your training, and during development, you’ll build it all (although it’s certainly possibly one person will do the design and another will do the development).
The key takeaway here for someone new to training is that you shouldn’t just sit down at the computer, fire up PowerPoint, and begin tying up your presentation before you’ve gone through a deliberate, comprehensive design phase.
SNA: How does an organization determine what training delivery method is appropriate for a specific situation?
Jeff: By training delivery method, what we’re talking about is making the choice between something like classroom-style, instructor-led training, OJT (on-the-job) training where one worker learns from a more experienced worker, virtual instructor-led training, eLearning, written materials, videos, virtual reality, augmented reality, chatbots, etc.
The simple answer to this question is to choose the training delivery method (or a combination of delivery methods, known as a blend) that will lead to the best outcomes for each specific purpose. Of course, what becomes more complicated is determining the best delivery method for each purpose.
There’s a lot to unpack in answering this question and in finding a good delivery method, but there are a few foundational principles to keep in mind.
First, research shows that the actual training delivery method doesn’t determine the effectiveness of the training but what does are the instructional methods — what the instructor and learner do during the training regardless of delivery methods. This means things like demonstrations, practice, feedback, awakening prior knowledge, examples and non-examples, reflection and metacognition, and so on. There’s a rich and growing body of research on evidence-based training principles (the “instructional methods” I referred to) and I recommend people read up on that to learn more.
Additionally, research shows blends that combine instructor-led training and eLearning tend to work better than using just instructor-led or just eLearning. So, keep blends in mind and try to create training that exposes workers to the same topics in multiple different ways from different perspectives.
A final thing to keep in mind at a high-level is whether the training is synchronous or asynchronous.
Synchronous means you’re completing the training with your instructor and maybe other students—think of a classroom here. Use synchronous training when it’s important that the learner gets that social support from the instructor (for demonstrations/practice/feedback, for example) but also the other learners (discussions, etc.).
Asynchronous means you’re completing the training on your own—think of a self-guided eLearning course here. Use asynchronous training when that’s not necessary but being able to proceed through the training at the learner’s own pace and needing time to develop “deep learning” is important.
SNA: What needs to be put in writing for the learners for effective safety training?
Jeff: If I can expand the question here a little bit, I think it’s important to involve workers in many aspects of safety training. Want to know about the real job they perform and the real hazards they face? Ask the workers. Further, consider having the workers get involved in design, development, and delivery of the safety training.
When the training has started, make sure the workers know the learning objectives and help them see why the training is useful for them (the “what’s in it for me? or WIIFM). Give them workbooks they can use to take notes and perform written exercises when possible. Let them take the workbooks with them after training is complete. You’ll also want to give them some form of training completion certificate.
Finally, get them involved in the evaluation of safety training and its later continual improvement. Remember that when it comes to workplace safety and hazards, the workers are the experts.
SNA: What methods can an organization use to evaluate the effectiveness of training?
Jeff: To evaluate training, in simple terms, means to determine if it was effective or not.
The classic training evaluation method is known as Kirkpatrick’s four-level evaluation method. In this method, you evaluate training at up to four different levels, with the higher levels being more significant. Those levels, from lower to higher, are:
- Level 1, Reaction — what did the learners think of the training?
- Level 2, Learning — how did the learners do on a test/assessment immediately after training?
- Level 3, Transfer — are learners later applying the training to the real job environment?
- Level 4, Results — is the training having the desired organizational business result or other desired outcome (for example, social benefit)?
Although the Kirkpatrick model is the most used in training, there are others: The Phillips ROI, Brinkerhoff Success-Case Model, and the Kaufman model.
I’m a big fan of a newer model by Dr. Will Thalheimer, the Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model, or LTEM.
SNA: How does continuous improvement apply to safety training?
Jeff: Well, to keep the answer to this one simple, we don’t want to stand pat but instead we always want to strive for improvement. That’s true in business and it should be true in safety training as well.
This goes back to the training evaluation model issue. We don’t evaluate training just for the sake of evaluation. We do it to get information about how we can improve the training.
So, use that training evaluation information and other forms of information, including operational data, operational learning, and all forms of learner feedback, to continue revising and improving safety training over time.
Many safety trainers are familiar with the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle for continuous improvement. The idea’s the same. Think of it as job security.
SNA: What are adult learning principles and how do they apply to safety training?
Jeff: Adult learning principles are something most of us have heard about but few of us really know what they are or where they came from. To be honest, my opinion on adult learning principles is a little more mixed than what you might get from others involved in safety training.
To step back, what most people are (at least indirectly) referring to when they talk about adult learning principles is a theory by Malcolm Knowles called andragogy. He developed a list of principles to explain how adults learn (and how adults learn differently than children learn — something called pedagogy). As I said, I’m mixed on these. In general, I think there’s a large grain of truth to them. My concerns are that they’re often stated in a broad manner and can be interpreted through different lenses easily, that there’s no solid base of research proving them all, and that they are based more on Western cultures than other global cultures.
Another concern I have is that you will often see people listing different things under the name of adult learning principles. For example, the adult learning principles in the ASSP Z490.1 EHS training standard published in 2016 are not the adult learning principles written by Malcolm Knowles.
I do find some value in the adult learning principles and I’m not trying to debunk them entirely. I think it’s good to be aware of them and incorporate them. However, I recommend people broaden their research and learn about those other evidence-based training practices I mentioned earlier in this discussion as well.