Article Author Olivia McMurrey, member of the NALP Safety and Risk Management Committee
As safety training at many landscape companies has become more in-depth – to better protect workers and to satisfy OSHA expectations – it is demanding more of managers’ time, and keeping track of all the physical paperwork is challenging.
Bryce Christianson, founder and managing member of Titan Sitework Contracting in Anchorage, Alaska, recently made solving this problem his priority. The answer, he says, lies in learning-management software, or LMS.
“Before, everything was out of binders,” Christianson says. “Now, I can set someone up on a computer and put them through the first two hours of training whereas before, a manager would have to grab that binder, explain the process and take 30 or 45 minutes just to get him set up and acclimated to the program, and then be available for questions.
“If I can automate that, that takes a lot of time off my managers and streamlines the process. It means I can get this done a lot easier and I’m not having to forcibly schedule training.”
While real-world instructor-led and jobsite training still takes place, the first stage of training on any topic can be handled with learning-management software, says Christianson, who is a member of the NALP Safety and Risk Management Committee. His company has training binders for every piece of equipment employees operate and for other safety topics, and he’s in the process of converting those physical binders into software modules that also contain videos and interactive content.
“We’re turning everything into an LMS program,” Christianson says. “We can have a new employee do the initial onboarding before he even comes into the office.”
Each employee logs into a personal account, and the system records his or her progress and quiz scores, fulfilling federal OSHA’s requirement to document training and ensure it is understood.
“Everything should be recorded: the time, the date, the employees’ understanding, their commitment to operating safely,” Christianson says.
He’s in a position to know the devastation an injury can cause and what OSHA expects from employers. When he was 16 and working for his father’s landscape firm, a fellow employee lost his leg up to the hip in an accident involving a hydroseeding machine.
A worker’s years of experience with your company and in the industry mean nothing after an accident, Christianson says. “The first thing OSHA does when they come in is say, ‘How did YOU train him?’” he says.
Today, new employees at Titan Sitework Contracting all go through the same training program, whether they have 20 days or 20 years of experience. Workers repeat training every three years.
Christianson says transitioning to LMS will be the second phase in most landscape companies’ safety-program evolution. The first phase is figuring out where to start in putting together a program (NALP’s Safe Company Program Manual, OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction and equipment operating manuals are good choices), how much depth to include, and how to present and record the training, he says.
“Once you get a system and you get the commitment from your managers and supervisors to adhere to that system, it’s just taking the time to do training,” Christianson says.
Most LMS systems offer demonstrations, so you can try various programs and choose the one that works best for your firm. Christianson says loading his company’s existing training content into the system he chose has been simple.
“Training takes time, and that’s where a lot of companies falter,” Christianson says. They either don’t have the time for training when it’s needed or don’t have the right person available to oversee it. “That’s why we’ve tried to put a bit of automation into our system,” he says.