Picture this: you diligently undertook all of your required induction training courses when you began your new role, learning all about fire safety, first aid and health and safety risks in your workplace. You’ve performed well in your job, and thankfully never had to use any of your health and safety knowledge, but you feel like you remember most of what you learned. It’s now 3 years later and you’re being asked to do it all again – what a waste of time, right?
You might be thinking, ‘I have no time for this – I’ve done it all before!’ or ‘I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and know all there is to know about my job.’
A number of courses, particularly those with practical skills that may not be used often such as work health and safety training, need to be refreshed regularly for a number of reasons – and it’s not just to spend more money or ‘tick a box’.
Studies have shown that the longer you go after learning something without reinforcing it or applying the knowledge, the less information you remember. This is called the ‘forgetting curve’ and as German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus who discovered it showed, regularly repeating or using information after learning it reduces your chances of forgetting.
If you haven’t been to site in a while, or had to use the skills you learned in a course, you may not realise what you have forgotten until it’s too late. You also won’t be aware of the latest industry standards, legislative requirements or organisational procedures that help everyone work together in an emergency. It’s certainly better to be prepared rather than wait until an accident happens to find out everyone’s not on the same page.
Regular training and refreshers ensure everyone in a workplace or industry has the same up to date industry standard information. It helps organisations to ensure everyone is at the same level of understanding, and up to date on the latest technology or changes in the working environment. Investing in training also shows that your employer values you and your contribution to the organisation.
So how often should training be repeated? Well, it really depends on the course and your employer’s requirements. Organisations tend to have their own standards based on the activities they conduct and the risks involved within a specific workplace. Qualifications may also need to be upgraded when new requirements come in or certificates expire.
Another important factor, as Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting curve highlights, is that you should be undertaking training right before you need it – refreshing your health and safety training right before you head up to a mine site for example is the perfect time, as it means you will be using your knowledge right away, and reducing the risk of forgetting.
It is certainly important – as a study by ECU shows, compulsory training introduced by WorkSafe WA in 2006 has resulted in a reduction in injury and fatality rates in the construction industry and prompted calls for even more, repeated training.
So the next time you’re asked to sacrifice another morning to go over the basics of fire prevention or CPR, remember that there are many important reasons for you to get that refresher – and hey, you might even learn something new!