Make sure safety training is understood by all staff

07 December 2012
Make sure safety training is understood by all staff

What happens if an employee with limited English misunderstands training and suffers injury as a result? Navdip Wilson explains your duty of care

The problem I employ quite a few people in my hotel for whom English is not their first language. This language barrier can make health and safety and other types of training difficult.
I am worried that one of my employees might sustain an injury while at work and say it was because they did not understand the training. How can I avoid this, and to what extent do I need to ensure employees understand their training?

The law Much of the legislation that would become relevant in the event that an employee is injured during the course of his or her employment refers to training. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998) states that users, supervisors and managers of work equipment must be thoroughly trained in its use, and adequate health and safety information should be available to users. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 places a duty on an employer to "reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable".

Often an employer will rely upon training as a defence to any claim being pursued for a breach of these regulations.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992) require that personal protective equipment is supplied and used at work, and that employees are given instructions on how to use it safely. Lack of training or an employee alleging that they did not understand training provided by an employer could prove detrimental to any defence that an employer might have to a potential claim.

Expert advice Once a risk assessment has taken place, consider the tasks where training is identified as a control measure and ensure you put in place a programme of training accordingly.

Choose various methods for delivering training: coaching, video training and task-specific practical demonstrations in addition to formal training. This will help to ensure that those employees for whom English is not a first language are given every opportunity to understand the training.

Give priority to those jobs where lack of information or training might result in serious harm to an employee and those jobs which benefit the largest numbers of staff.

Checklist â- Consider all risk assessments in place to see where information and/or training are identified as control measures in reducing the risk of injury.
â- Provide practical on-the-job training supplemented by training videos. When considering buddy systems try to match up buddies to employees who can speak the same language.
â- Keep good records of all training and ensure these documents are read over by an employee and signed by them to indicate the training has been understood.
â- Consider who might be able to help your organisation in providing information, materials, training courses, etc (eg, further education colleges, independent health and safety consultants).
â- Finally, ensure that all your employees have understood what is required of them. Check that the training has worked. Ask for feedback from line managers and the people who have been trained to assess whether any further information or training is needed. Keep comprehensive records of all training, and monitor them regularly so that refresher training can be provided when needed.

Beware! Failure to train can result in not only costly personal injury litigation, but potential fines from the Health & Safety Executive, criminal prosecution and damage to the business's reputation.

Contact Navdip Wilson is an associate solicitor at Weightmans

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