Developing a ‘Safety Training Grid’

April 07, 2011

Ian McGregor, Ph.D.
President, McGregor & Associates

Training employees in various safety protocols is a critical part of any department’s risk management plan. The challenges are numerous:

  • Significant number of part-time student employees
  • High turnover of employees
  • Significant number of training protocols to cover
  • Consistency of training between program units

Some departments adopt a ‘centralized’ approach to safety training i.e. all ‘essential’ training is coordinated centrally, usually through one person or a training committee (with individual program units responsible for any training specific to their program e.g. aquatics ‘in-service’ training). Other departments require each functional unit to be responsible for their own training (which potentially results in inconsistencies within the department unless someone is monitoring or tracking overall training efforts).

Irrespective of the approach, it is important that safety training be coordinated and monitored. The creation of a ‘Safety Training Grid’ provides a simple yet concrete way of ensuring that the right people are trained, and that this is training is being effectively tracked and monitored.

Where do you start? How do you keep track?

It is recommended that one person in the department be assigned as the ‘Department Training Coordinator’. (Alternatively, this role can be assumed by the Director or the Risk Management Committee).

The following describes a three-step process for the Training Coordinator to follow in developing a comprehensive (and practical) training program, and a simple tracking system to monitor it:
Step 1: Determine ‘Who needs training in What’

Step 2: Develop ‘Unit Training Grids’

Step 3: Develop a ‘Department Training Grid’.

Step 1: Who needs training in What?

What Types of Training?
Start by identifying all the safety training programs being currently delivered (or being added in the future). Typical safety training programs include:
1st Aid/ CPR
Blood pathogens
Disease control (e.g. MRSA)
Evacuation/ Fire/ Severe Weather emergencies
Medical Emergency Response
Risk management awareness
Other (e.g. WHMIS training)

Who Needs Training?
Not everyone in the department needs to be trained in everything!

Training everyone (including part-time students) is just not practical — or reasonable. Determining who needs training requires a common-sense approach which balances practicality with necessity. For example, in the Intramural program, does it make sense to train all referees in all sports in all the protocols listed above? Probably not — and a more reasonable approach might be to train all Intramural supervisors in selected protocols (assuming referees report to supervisors).

The key factors to be reviewed when answering the ‘Who’ question are:
*The type of activity involved (high risk vs. low risk)
*The practicality and logistics of each situation

Higher risk programs may require (from a common-sense viewpoint) that more people are trained in more safety protocols. Also, it may not be practical or efficient to train a large number of part-time students (e.g. referees) in a specific protocol (e.g. AED training) in situations where highly trained personnel are close by (e.g. for Intramural basketball games when trained permanent staff are in the building). Each activity and situation needs to be looked at separately!

A good starting point for the Training Coordinator is to ask each functional unit manager to divide programs, activities, people and facilities into ‘high risk’ and ‘low-risk’ categories (refer to the ‘Supervision’ article in this issue of the Newsletter). The following chart illustrates this approach for Intramurals:
Higher Risk                                                 Lower Risk
Tackle Rugby (higher risk of injury)                  Volleyball
Ice Hockey (higher risk of injury)                     Table Tennis
Flag Football (lower risk but off-site)                  Ultimate Frisbee

Step 2: Develop ‘Unit Training Grids’
Using the chart developed in Step 1 as the starting point, each unit manager is now ready to develop a ‘Training Grid’ specific to their unit. Hence Step 2 involves unit managers reviewing each ‘high-risk’/‘low-risk’ program and determining which staff needs to be trained in which protocol.

Here’s what a typical ‘Training Grid’ might look like for Intramural staff. (Note that this Grid is used for illustration purposes and the ‘Training Required’ is an example only. Each university should develop Unit Grids based on their own unique situation and requirements):

Unit Training Grid

Employee                                    Training Required                     Training Timing
Program Supervisors                                1-7                                           August
Referees in Ice Hockey, Rugby               1, 3, 5, 7                            September/ January
All other Referees                                   5, 6, 7                              September/ January

1. 1st Aid/ CPR
2. AED
3. Blood pathogens
4. Disease control
5. Evacuation/ Fire/ Severe Weather Emergencies
6. Medical Emergency Response
7. Risk management awareness
8. Missing Persons
9. In-service
(Note: Unit Managers can expand this Training Grid to include ‘Certification Requirements’ i.e. documenting any specific qualifications or certifications required for certain positions.)

Step 3: Develop ‘Department Training Grid’
After unit managers have submitted their Unit Training Grids, the Training Coordinator can then assemble the global ‘Department Training Gird’. (The following Grid is shown for illustration purposes only – universities need to determine their own Grid and requirements.)

Department Training Grid

Unit                   Employee                       Training Required        When
Intramurals       Program Supervisors                    1-7, 9                    August
Intramurals       Hockey Refs                                1, 3, 5, 7                September/ Jan
Intramurals       All other Referees                          5, 6                      September/ Jan

Fitness               Aerobics Instructors                1, 3, 5, 6, 9               September
Fitness               Personal Trainers                     1, 3, 6, 9                  September
Fitness               Yoga Instructors                         1, 6                       September

Summer Camps  Head Camp Instructor                 1-8                       May/ June
Summer Camps   Camp Counselors                     6, 7, 8                    June

Sport Clubs        Coaches                                   1-3, 6                      September
Sport Clubs        Club Officers                             1-3, 6                      September

Aquatics             Head Lifeguard                            3-9                      Sept/ Jan/ June
Aquatics             Guards                                       3-9                      Sept/ Jan/ June

Role of the Training Coordinator

The Training Coordinator has six main responsibilities:
1. Ensures that all functional units within the department develop ‘Unit Grids’ which include training protocols unique to each unit.
2. Assembles the ‘Department Training Grid’.
3. Determines which training protocols are best delivered ‘globally’ and which are best delivered by each specific unit.
4. Determines who does the Training (internally through department or university staff, or using outside contractors [e.g. Red Cross]).
5. Monitors all safety training.
6. Requires Unit Managers to submit lists detailing which staff have completed the required unit training.

Safety Training should be a high priority for all departments, and it is important that unit managers carefully review their training needs, and develop a training plan that is based on a common-sense approach which addresses priorities. The three-step approach described in this article creates a Department Training Grid which consolidates all unit plans and facilitates the effective coordination and monitoring of all training efforts.

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